Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson

If You Come Softlyis a lyrical story of Ellie and Miah, two high school students who make an instant connection to each other. Their relationship develops during the stolen hours they have with one another. It could be your typical first love story, but what no one can ever overlook is that Ellie is white and Miah is black.

Things I Liked:
This book is not an in-your-face issue book. Miah and Ellie are not preaching sermons all the time about race relations. They quietly speak by action how different people can forget, or rather embrace, their differences. The rest of the world doesn't understand, of course. I loved how Woodson depicted the glances, the words, the sometimes disapproval of both black and white. I also love how Miah's mother doesn't really hesitate to love Ellie, but how Ellie is afraid her family will not immediately accept Miah. This book made me think about prejudices I may have, that aren't immediately apparent. I also love that sometimes it was just about family relationships - how kids interacted with parents, siblings, and even friends. No matter where they grew up or what color their skin. Not to mention, Woodson's beautiful writing. Here's a favorite quote:
"'All people have suffered. So why should any of us feel like we're better or less than another?' But where are they then - these black people who were just like us - who were equal to us?" p.70
Things I Didn't Like:
I almost wish there had been more explanation and discussion of the ending. It was very fast and not very clear what happened. I think that was intentional, but no less slightly frustrating.

I enjoyed After Tupac and D Foster and Hushby Woodson, who has lots of other similar books (see some great reviews of her stuff at Maw Books Blog)

s-factor: !
not a lot

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

Do you ever think you have prejudices you just haven't realized yet?


  1. Did you know there is a sequel to this book called Behind You? I'd highly recommend it. I remember when I first started dating my husband (he's Asian) and we got serious my mom said, "You know this means your kids won't have blonde hair, blue eyes right?" Umm . . . that's okay!

  2. This is the only Jacqueline Woodson I've read, and honestly, all I remember about it is that I didn't like it. I don't even remember why. Perhaps I need to revisit?

  3. Natasha, I didn't know! Now I'm very excited to read that too! I've seriously been thinking about things I might think that are rather prejudiced...

    Melissa, I'd say if you don't remember why you didn't like it, it is definitely worth another shot. Was it a long time ago?

  4. I still haven't read a Jacqueline Woodson book but I've been meaning to. This one sounds good.

  5. Kim, once you start, you won't be able to stop! She writes with such power.

  6. I enjoyed this book, too, although I thought the ending was very abrupt. Natasha told me about the sequel, but I haven't been able to find it at my library. I'm curious to see what Woodson adds to the story ...

    One of the things I love about Woodson is exactly what you said - her books are about racial issues, but she's never in-your-face or whiny about it. Her books always make me think about my own prejudices as well as about how my daughter (who's bi-racial) will be treated out in the big, wide, very white world.

  7. Susan, I haven't checked if my library has it yet (ack)! But, I would sure love a little more explanation to that ending too.


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