If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of Miah and Ellie, students at a Washington Heights private school who fall in love and must learn to navigate society as an interracial couple. Woods states the book was inspired by a poem by Audre Lorde. In the following quote, the influence of Lorde's poem is clearly seen.
Time comes to us softly, slowly. It sits beside us for a while. Then, long before we are ready, it moves on.
As seen with the previous quote, time and opportunity are common themes in If You Come Softly. Woodson comments on the fickleness of time and the opportunities one can miss if they are not seized. Miah and Ellie struggle with grasping opportunities due to the societal pushback they face.
I think only once in your life do you find someone that you say, "Hey, this is the person I want to spend the rest of my time on this earth with." And if you miss it, or walk away from it, or even maybe, blink - it's gone.
Race is the most prominent theme in this work, as Jeremiah and Ellie face discrimination and harassment due to it. The following quote explores racial perspective and how minorities feel in a white dominant society. The theme of perspective comes from the Lorde poem with "you may hear what I hear / see what sorrow sees."
“Thing about white people," Jeremiah's father tells him, "they know what everybody else is, but they don't know they're white. . . When they walk into a party and everyone's black, they know it. Or when they get caught in Harlem after nightfall, they know it. But otherwise. . .”