If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

by Andrea K.

For my African-American review, I decided to read a popular YA author. I had never read any of Jacqueline Woodson’s books but I was very impressed with the book, If You Come Softly.

The main characters are Elisha, a wealthy Jewish girl who lives in Manhattan, and Jeremiah, a black guy who is Brooklyn –born and bred. The two know they couldn’t be more different but that does not stop them from falling in love. Miah and Ellie’s families don’t understand their relationship so the two are even more like a modern day Romeo and Juliet. Despite their physical and cultural differences, the attraction they share is real. This is a very realistic story about first love because, unfortunately, racism is still alive, even in our generation.

The title of the book, If You Come Softly, comes from the poem by Audre Lorde. Jeremiah’s mother shared this poem with him when he was much younger. The title is very significant because it demonstrates how Ellie and Miah are experiencing their first loves but know their relationship will not be as accepted as others are because of the interracial factor. Because of this, the couple are going slowly and not barging into anything. They are ‘treading lightly,” so to speak.

My favorite character is Jeremiah’s mother, Nelia. She is an accomplished author who has put her writing aside to be a mother, and she is an excellent mother! She is strong and compassionate and wants the very first for her one and only child. She looks past the fact Ellie is an affluent white Jewish girl because her son is happy and in love.

Unfortunately, like Shakespeare’s play, there is sadness in this story. Just as Ellie is getting ready to introduce her family to Miah, suddenly there is no more Miah. But it doesn’t mean she will ever in her life forget Jeremiah Roselind.

Now for the reader’s enjoyment, here is the Audre Lorde poem:

If You Come Softly

“If you come as softly
As the wind within the trees
You may hear what I hear
See what sorrow sees.

If you come as lightly
As threading dew
I will take you gladly
Nor ask more of you.

You may sit beside me
Silent as a breath
Only those who stay dead
Shall remember death.

And if you come I will be silent
Nor speak harsh words to you.
I will not ask you why now.”
Or how, or what you do.

We shall sit here, softly
Beneath two different years
And the rich between us
Shall drink our tears.



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