Sunday, September 18, 2005

If You Come Softly, by Jacqueline Woodson

A story about true love between teens, with a twist: Jeremiah is Black and Elsie is Jewish. But they have a lot in common and this isn't a stereotypical Guess Who's Coming To Dinner story (although the novel includes a reference to that one).

A big warning: the book concludes with a massive whammy that is only faintly foreshadowed in the book. That will feel a lot like a cheat, as if Woodson couldn't bring herself to end the book in the way its dramatic arc was heading. But moreover, the characters are terribly mature for a pair of 15 year olds. And maybe just a bit too perfect. I really longed for some sign of self-centeredness or some mistake or something to go wrong, but that never happens in books where the message is political rather than literary.

And I guess that brings me to a side comment about race books. I find that I don't tend to enjoy them and, in fact, try to avoid them. At first I figured that is because of an affluent white who can barely relate to the milieu. But I think it is more than that. When a book becomes an issue book (be it race, sexual orientation, disease, etc), it loses something. When characters get sacrificed for the sake of an issue, the story suffers. Why couldn't Elsie or Miah be a bit imperfect? Because that would have suggested that interracial dating was imperfect and Woodson couldn't risk that. Too much riding on the issue to allow for some human imperfection here. Or maybe Woodson can't imagine the world of a living teen, but she seems like a better writer than that.


pebbles718 said...

Its not Elsie its Elijah

pebbles718 said...

Its not Elsie, its Elijah. I must say I disagree with most of what you said. In my opnion the book had everything that a good book must have. The fact that Jeremiah was "sacrificed" in this story was a really good idea because this shows how important the issue is. The theme was very prominent. Overall it was a terrific book and I feel that Jacqueline Woodson did a great job addressing this problem.

Cloudy-Uh_831 said...

First of all the girls name is Elisha, but she goes by Ellie. Secondly I'm sorry that you were upset that Miah was "sacrificed" but Woodson writes realistic fiction and the real side of this is that young black men are being sacrificed by our society every single day. Guess what? Racism still exists, hence racial profiling and police brutality!!! This was not meant to be a happily ever after type of story, if you know Woodson at all you should know that is not her style!!!