If You Come Softly


If You Come Softly is about Jeremiah who is fifteen and black and Ellie who is fifteen and white. They meet at a private school and fall in love and then have to deal with how society treats them because they’re an interracial couple. It was inspired by a poem by Audre Lorde that begins:

If you come softly
as the wind within the trees
you may hear what I hear
see what sorrow sees.

Where it takes place:

In the Washington Heights section of Manhattan

Where I wrote it:

Whidbey Island which is off the coast of Seattle, Washington and in Olivebridge, NY

Why I wrote it:

I wrote If You Come Softly because I wanted to write about first love—how hard it can be and how great it is. I also wanted to write about being fifteen because I remember that age very well. As I was writing it, I came across some lines from Romeo and Juliet and realized this story was a modern-day Romeo and Juliet. The enemies to Jeremiah and Ellie’s love are racism, police brutality and people’s general stupidity. I also wanted to write about Time—about how fleeting it is, how important it is to love who you want and be who you want in the moment so that you don’t look back and think “I should have…” or “I could have…”

German book cover
German language version of “If You Come Softly”
  • ALA Best Book for Young Adults
  • Award Nominee (all readers)
  • 2001 Detroit Public Library Author’s Day Award