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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312379099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312379094
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Humorist and former model Wolff details her childhood growing up in an all-black Seattle neighborhood with a white father who wanted to be black in this amusing memoir. Wolff never quite fit in with the neighborhood kids, despite her father's urgings that she make friends with the sisters on the block. Her father was raised in a similar neighborhood and—after a brief stint as a hippie in Vermont—returned to Seattle and settled into life as a self-proclaimed black man. Wolff and her younger, more outgoing sister, Anora, are taught to embrace all things black, just like their father and his string of black girlfriends. Just as Wolff finds her footing in the local elementary school (after having mastered the art of capping: think yo mama jokes), her mother, recently divorced from her father and living as a Buddhist, decides to enroll Wolff in the Individual Progress Program, a school for gifted children. Once again, Wolff finds herself the outcast among the wealthy white kids who own horses and take lavish vacations. While Wolff is adept at balancing humorous memories with more poignant moments of a daughter trying to earn her father's admiration, the result is more a series of vignettes than a cohesive memoir. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

In this coming-of-age memoir, Wolff tackles an uncomfortable, even taboo subject: racial tension and a young white girl's attempt to assimilate into black culture. Most critics were greatly affected by Wolff's experiences -- many times hilarious and educational, but often quite sad. Wolff nonetheless maintains a light tone throughout as she details her childhood in rich dialogue and detail. A few reviewers commented that parts of her life read like a sitcom, albeit with little drama (or even trauma, the stuff of memoirs). Only the Washington Post diverged from other critics in its assessment that Wolff failed to explain her father's own interesting immersion in black culture. Most readers, however, will embrace both Wolff's and her father's stories. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

She told these stories so beautifully and witty.
Emily Hartsough
I felt sort of cheated by the end, like I had been given a lot of puzzle pieces but found out they all belonged to different puzzles and would never make a picture.
Suzanne Amara
She does a really great job depicting her thoughts, feelings and what it's like to be a kid just trying to fit in with a bunch of other kids.
JustJules20

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Beldini VINE VOICE on April 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What a great book! Fun, moving, and with a really unexpected ending. Though the promo material highlights her childhood as a white girl in a black neighborhood, this memoir is a more sophisticated story--and more universal story -- of a child who can't find her place in her family. And the most moving aspect of this book is her success in finding a place in the world, and what it ultimately costs her. Yes, it's heartbreaking in places, but it's hysterical in others and most importantly -- the story is compelling. I literally couldn't put this book down and I have the circles under my eyes to prove it.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Zendicant Penguin on April 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Wow, apart from a bird identification book, this is the very first amazon vine product that I might have purchased in 'real life' and I'm happy to say that this is definitely a worthwhile acquisition.
Before we begin let's establish what this book is not: It is not hilarious or tragic as a cover blurb indicates. It is also not, strictly speaking, truly autobiographical as the author declaims up front something to the effect that many of the things in the book might never have happened and that she uses composites of characters to represent distinct personalities in her story.
What this book is is a very charming, often poignant, quite incisive, well-told story based on the remembrances of a caucasian woman whose childhood was spent living in a deteriorating Seattle neighborhood with a father who chose to 'go black.'
Interestingly, it is also a real testimonial to the quality and effectiveness of the the Seattle public school system and civic organizations in their efforts to provide opportunities to its most promising albeit less privileged (read wealthy) chidren.
The story revolves around a white girl who, along with her younger sister remain in the custody of her ne'er do well father who has fashioned himself a black man in a white man's body. They live in an urban Seattle neighborhood which has become predominantly black; a change that the girls' father revels in.
The author does a wonderful job of describing the struggles and triumphs she experiences as she struggles with the multiple challenges of adolescence; parental divorce; racial comity, difference and divide; and familial and peer group strife.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer VINE VOICE on November 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book Overview

Mishna Wolff was born to white hippie parents in Vermont. However, when her family moves back to Seattle, her father drops the pretense of being "a white man" and becomes the "black man" he fancies himself to be. Having grown up in a predominantly black neighborhood during his childhood, Mishna's father immerses himself in the speech patterns, clothing and culture of his black friends. He expects his daughters to do the same. For Mishna's younger sister Anora, this wasn't a problem. However, Mishna has a hard time finding her place in the neighborhood hierarchy of kids. And when her parents divorce and her mom moves out, she finds herself struggling to fit in. Left largely to her own devices, Mishna must find her own way to survive.

When her dad enrolls the girls in summer camp, Mishna is out of her element and regularly terrorized by the other children. But her quick wit and smarts help her find a survival strategy that works for her: capping. Capping is the fine art of "yo mama" jokes where participants engage in trading escalating insults. Mishna excels at capping, and it is her lifeline in the hard-knock world of kid society.

I was becoming a machine--or at least I thought I was. All I know is I had purpose:

1. Me ruling.
2. You sucking.

I had aspirations. I had goals. I had a lot of friends, and a lot of bruises.

But just as Mishna begins to fit in at the neighborhood, her mom steps in and gets her transferred to a school for gifted children. Feeling she has found her place in the world at last, Mishna is excited--even thought attending the school means a long commute on city buses. Alas, although Mishna finds herself with children who have the same skin tone, she is still an outsider.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By K. Kraus VINE VOICE on April 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I almost gave this book three stars, but I realized I was judging it by the author's life, not the actual book. I would caution readers not to believe the product description. I expected this to be a pretty funny memoir. The product page review blurbs called it "hilarious" and "so funny" several times, and that cover sure makes you think it's a funny book. I don't think I laughed out loud once.
Bittersweet is probably a good word to describe Mishna Wolff's memoir. Reading it, you can feel the love she has for her dad and sister, but I found it all so DEPRESSING! There were so many times where if Mr. Wolff were standing close by while I was reading, I probably would have smacked him.
Poor Mishna was put in a school for gifted kids, but her dad and step-mother just resented her for it and accused her of acting like she was better than them. If her story is honest, and I believe it is, she IS better than them! Her dad pushed her to do sports, which ultimately were very good for her, but he did it for his own ego, to relive his youth. He was really a negligent father who didn't work very often and didn't provide properly for his children. I know it would hurt Mishna to hear people speak this way about her father. She would totally agree, but she wouldn't want other people to say it.
I felt so bad reading this story because almost everything Mishna did was a desperate bid for her father's approval, and the things he did and said to her were sometimes so hurtful. When he took his new wife's side against Mishna's, it was pretty heartbreaking. I know Mishna's father loved her, though. He just did a poor job of showing it. In the author's acknowledgments she thanks her parents for her wonderful childhood, so that just shows the power of love.
I had a lot of issues with the writing in this book. But since I read an advance reading copy, I won't hold that against her. Hopefully many of the grammar problems will be fixed in final editing.
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