How do I summarize the first chapter in If You Come Softly?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter one introduces Jeremiah, a black teenager, remembering his childhood and thinking about who he is.

When you are writing a summary you want to include the important parts of a chapter and a few details.  It’s also a good idea to include a quote or two.

The story begins with Jeremiah, who goes by Miah, remembering his grandmother and pondering race.  He used to go on airplane rides to visit her down south, and she would tell him to stay in the shade so he would not get too black.  He also thinks of his father showing him Black Panther movies where Black is Beautiful, and wishes he could tell his dead grandmother that you can’t be too black.  His friend Carlton, whose name he thinks is ridiculous since his white mother named him, feels Miah’s skin is too dark.  Miah wonders about playing basketball for Percy Academy, being used for his race. 

He hated that he was gonna be playing ball for Percy Academy.  No, it wasn’t the game he hated… But he hated that he would be playing it for Percy.  White-bright Percy. (Ch. 1)

Miah thinks about the cartoon he saw of a monkey playing basketball, and wonders why no one steered him toward another sport.  He doesn’t want to be a cliché.  Yet Jeremiah worries about fitting in, even though he knows there are two other black kids in his school.  He is aware that those two kids, while they may be black, are not black in the way he is. 

But at night, they went home to different worlds.  Kennedy lived in the Albany houses out in Brownsville.  Rayshon lived in Harlem.  Jeremiah frowned.  He didn’t want to be a snob. (Ch. 1)

As Jeremiah ponders his race, his family, and his identity, he ends the chapter with the revelation that he has met a girl.  It seems that this might shape his understanding of the school.  We will later learn that she is white, and that this is one of the reasons for his Chapter One ruminations on race and identity.

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