If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson 1998
IQ "I'd marry you tomorrow. Isn't that crazy? How much...you know, how much I love you?" Ellie pg. 167
If You Come Softly is a love story. Ellie is white, wealthy (though not born into money) and Jewish, Miah (short for Jeremiah) is black and wealthy (the only son of two famous parents). "From their first glance to their first words to each other to their first kiss, they could tell you exactly how it happened-in their hearts and in their souls." (back cover) They are in love, but their families don't seem to understand this love, however most of their friends are supportive. They are both tired of the curious and sometimes hostile stares. Why can't their love just be accepted?
The story is told in alternating points of view; Ellie's from the first person and Miah from the third person. Ellie is an awkward, shy fifteen year old who is dealing with some issues; besides these new feelings she is having over a boy (a Black boy no less), she is also struggling to trust her mother, Marion. Marion has left Ellie and the rest of her family twice. Just packed up and left. Ellie is the youngest (the "little accident"); the twins are ten years older than she and her two oldest siblings, Marc and Susan were in graduate school when she was born. "I got used to being alone early on." Ellie has a hard time letting go of the past, she expects her mother to pack up and leave again and this time not come back. Jeremiah has his own struggles; coming to terms with being a black boy (man) in America and his parents being divorced (and living right across the street from each other! Can you say awkwarrrrd?).
I loved this book. The writing is lyrical, it seems to just flow along. Ellie and Miah fall in love, readers fall in love with this book. The author then proceeds to break Ellie and Miah's hearts as well as the hearts of the readers. You meet so many other great secondary characters who all seem to deserve books of their own; Marion, Carlton (Miah's biracial best friend) and Anne (Ellie's lesbian older sister). If You Come Softly discusses white privilege "Thing about white people, 'Jeremiah's father tells him' "they know exactly what everyone else is, but they don't know that they're white." , along with being the child of divorced parents, abandonment issues and coming of age. I loved reading about a Black boy whose parents were around and who wasn't wallowing in poverty. Those stories are needed and they are good and often unforgettable, but I do think that the stories of people of color in the middle to upper class have been ignored and they need to be told too. The full experience of people of color should be represented in literature.
This was my first Woodson book, but will surely not be my last. For all those who are unfamiliar with Jacqueline Woodson's work and her stellar reputation I will sum up If You Come Softly thus so: all the elements that make Perfect Chemistry great with a sweeter side, less sexual tension and a devastating ending. A true love story that chronicles the beauty of first love as well as the ups and downs of love not just between guys and girls, but between parents and friends. Along with love, the novel explores racial tensions; the complexity involved in interracial relationships, white privilege and the hardships that black males face. I had tears in my eyes and was sniffling a bit at the end. Achingly lovely. 7th grade and up
Disclosure: Received as a prize from susan at Color Online
Throwback Thursday is a meme started by Tashi at Taste Life Twice. For this meme, I review books from 2007 and back.
PS There is a sequel Behind You (do NOT Google it if you haven't read If You Come Softly. The ending will be spoiled). I'm going to have to rush to the library and get it. Also, the cover shown below is the cover of the book that I own. I like both covers, but I like the above cover even more. Which cover do you like more?