If you come softly / Jacqueline Woodson.

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    • Abstract:
      Summary: After meeting at their private school in New York, fifteen-year-old Jeremiah, who is black and whose parents are separated, and Ellie, who is white and whose mother has twice abandoned her, fall in love and then try to cope with people's reactions.
    • Notes:
      Reprint with discussion questions. Previously published: New York : Putnam's, 1998.
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Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 October 1998

Gr. 7^-10. People stare when teenagers Miah and Ellie touch and hold hands in public. He is black. She is white. In alternating chapters, we learn about how they meet in their private high school and fall in love, and we learn a lot about their families, both of which are far from perfect. As in all her fiction, Woodson confronts prejudice head-on. Miah's family is rich and famous, but when he and Ellie walk in Central Park, two old white women ask her if she is all right. Ellie, whose family is Jewish and secular, comes to realize that she takes her whiteness, her race, for granted in a way that Miah never can. He always knows he is black. The burning of black churches in the South are part of who he is. His mother accepts Ellie; so does his friend whose family is biracial. But Ellie's lesbian older sister asks Ellie to think twice about dating a black guy. What will her parents do? Readers will wish that Woodson had given us that elemental scene when Ellie brings Miah home to dinner. Instead, the sudden violent ending is a devastating shock that seems stuck on, though it does make us go back and reread the story for clues, and they are there. Many will want to go on from this story to the personal essays in Half & Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural. ((Reviewed October 1, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

PW Reviews 1998 June #3

Once again, Woodson (I Hadn't Meant to Tell You This) handles delicate, even explosive subject matter with exceptional clarity, surety and depth. In this contemporary story about an interracial romance, she seems to slip effortlessly into the skins of both her main characters, Ellie, an upper-middle-class white girl who has just transferred to Percy, an elite New York City prep school, and Jeremiah, one of her few African American classmates, whose parents (a movie producer and a famous writer) have just separated. A prologue intimates heartbreak to come; thereafter, sequences alternate between Ellie's first-person narration and a third-person telling that focuses on Jeremiah. Both voices convincingly describe the couple's love-at-first-sight meeting and the gradual building of their trust. The intensity of their emotions will make hearts flutter, then ache as evidence mounts that Ellie's and Jeremiah's "perfect" love exists in a deeply flawed society. Even as Woodson's lyrical prose draws the audience into the tenderness of young love, her perceptive comments about race and racism will strike a chord with black readers and open the eyes of white readers ("Thing about white people," Jeremiah's father tells him, "they know what everybody else is, but they don't know they're white"). Knowing from the beginning that tragedy lies just around the corner doesn't soften the sharp impact of this wrenching book. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews