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I'm Down: A Memoir Hardcover – May 26, 2009
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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)
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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.
Top customer reviews
Mishna grew up in an odd sort of situation : she was White, as was her whole family, yet her dad was convinced he was Black. She grew up in a Black neighborhood and went to schools with majority of Black kids . Her Dad was constantly trying to teach her how to fit into this scenario, which she never felt she did .
Her parents divorced when she was young, so at one point, she went to live with her mom, and her mom enrolled her into a "gifted" school program, since she was really smart . She began trying to fit in with the richer group of White kids , and seemed to feel a bit out of the loop in that group too. She didn't want them to know she lived in such a poor neighborhood, and didn't get to do the things most of the other kids did .
So, somehow, throughout all this, she learned to conform and fit into her own space , and possibly feel more comfortable , over time, living in both worlds .
The book is absolutely hilarious ,so she definitely kept a sense of humor about her situation . At the end, you learn that no one has a perfect life , no matter what Race you are or what neighborhood you live in . Everyone has obstacles to overcome in life, and we all need to learn to carve out our own space in the world, just as the author did.
A really GOOD book !
Mishna Wolff's misadventures could not be scripted. Her wit and keen intelligence afford her the opportunities to chronicle the social, economical, and racial differences of this country and the dialogue between her and her "black" father is priceless. Highly recommended.