If You Come Softly

Jacqueline Woodson
A heartbreaking contemporary romance from a three-time Newbery Honor winning author Jeremiah feels good inside his own skin. That is, when he's in his own Brooklyn neighborhood. But now he's going to be attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan, and black teenage boys don't exactly fit in there. So it's a surprise when he meets Ellie the first week of school. In one frozen moment their eyes lock and after that they know they fit together -- even though she's Jewish and he's black. Their worlds are so different, but to them that's not what matters. Too bad the rest of the world has to get in their way. Reviewers have called Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson's work "exceptional" (Publishers Weekly) and "wrenchingly honest" (School Library Journal), and have said "it offers a perspective on racism and elitism rarely found in fiction for this age group" (Publishers Weekly). In If You Come Softly, she delivers a powerful story of interracial love that leaves readers wondering "why" and "if only...."


Reviewed: 2016-11-22

Loving, a film based on actual events, is about an interracial couple (ironically their last names is Loving) whose marriage was considered illegal because of Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws, was released on November 4. Eventually the Virginia v. the Loving case reached the steps of the United States Supreme Court and in 1967 the high court sided with the Loving making it illegal for any state to discriminate interracial couples from seeking to get married.  Thirty-one years later after the landmark civil rights case, Jacqueline Woodson pens If You Come Softly, a novel about the challenges of a being interracial and interfaith high school couple in today’s society.   Set in nearby New York City, Softly centers on the budding relationship of Jeremiah (Miah), a black teen who lives from Brooklyn who enjoys playing hoops and Elisha (Ellie) is a jewish teen who lives in the Upper East Side.  Their lives intersect in the hallways of Percy Academy, a prestigious high school, when Ellie, in haste, trying to locate her classroom, accidentally crashes into Miah that causes her books to come tumbling down onto the floor; coincidentally they both reach for the fallen books simultaneously. This narrative version of a celluloid “meet cute” sets the stage for “loving” relationship. Even though they received unsolicited stares from students and strangers alike, this did not impact how they felt about each other.  It was at Miah’s home, that Ellie felt the acceptance that she would’ve of like to have received from her own family.  As time elapsed, their relationship deepened, especially with the encouragement from Miah’s mother. At the end, racism, love, and play all converged on a basketball court one fateful day when Miah was playing and unfortunately, a trigger-happy officer looking for an offender shot and killed Miah.


Even though Woodson uses a typical trope to craft this story, forbidden and star-crossed couple,her double narrated style: (alternating Ellie and Miah as narrators) contributes to the intimacy and tenderness of their relationship even after his death; Intimating that loves continues after death.


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