If You Come Softly Summary
by Jacqueline Woodson

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If You Come Softly Summary

If You Come Softly written by Jacqueline Woodson is a young adult novel about an interracial relationship. It takes place in Manhattan.

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The story begins with a dream that Elisha Eisen—or Ellie—has about a boy named Miah. Miah (Jeremiah Roselind) is an African American high school student who enjoys playing basketball and comes from divorced parents. Ellie's mom tries to get her to remember as much of the dream as she can.

When she is fifteen, Ellie first meets Miah and falls quickly in love. The two teens have a lot in common, especially with their home lives, but their relationship is looked down upon by family members as well as strangers because of their difference in skin color. For example, Ellie's sister tells her to be careful of beginning an interracial relationship because there are many challenges to tackle. Another example is when Ellie and Miah are in Central Park and are approached by two old women. The women are concerned that Ellie is being attacked by Miah, and they are worried that she is not okay.

The only person who truly accepts the relationship, besides Ellie and Miah, is Miah's mother. Just after Ellie has decided to introduce Miah to her own family, however, Miah is shot and killed in Central Park by police who are searching for a black male suspect.

Ellie and her parents attend Miah's funeral. She graduates from high school and realizes that life moves on whether people want it to or not.

Summary

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

If You Come Softly is a love story. The novel tells of two young people, Miah and Ellie, who fall in love unexpectedly and are preparing themselves to accept all that their love will mean to them and to the world, when their moment of possibility is tragically stolen. Ellie is the novel’s first-person narrator, while Miah’s third-person voice offers his perspective in equal measure.

Miah and Ellie meet at Percy Academy, where both are new transfer students. Miah, an African American basketball player from Brooklyn, wears his hair in dreadlocks and is skeptical about attending a school with so many white students. Ellie drops her books in the hallway, and Miah helps her pick them up. Curiosity sparks between them, and they think about each other constantly as they return to their regular lives.

Ellie lives with her parents in a wealthy neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She has four much older siblings scattered around the country. When Ellie was young, her mother twice abandoned the family, so Ellie still feels anger and mistrust toward her mother, calling her by her first name. After meeting Miah, she wonders what her family will think about her interest in dating an African American student. When she floats the idea in a phone call to her sister, Anne, Anne’s response is not enthusiastic. Ellie becomes nervous about telling her parents about Miah. For the rest of the novel, she struggles with figuring out when and how to tell them.

Miah is equally intrigued by Ellie, and he wonders how meeting her will affect his transition into a majority white school. He does not mention her to his parents at first, but he talks about her with his biracial friend, Carlton. At home, Miah struggles to accept his parents’ separation, which is particularly pronounced because they live across the street from each other and Miah shuttles back and forth between the two households. Miah’s father is a famous filmmaker and his mother a successful writer, and Miah keeps these facts secret from Ellie and others at his new school. He wants to appear to be just another “brother” from Brooklyn, but he fears that by this omission he is not being true to himself.

Soon enough, Miah and Ellie meet again in class. They are drawn to each other, despite their nervousness about entering into an interracial relationship. They proceed with caution, noticing that their classmates and teachers watch them when they are together, and when they go out together they even get...

(The entire section is 989 words.)