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Mixed: My Life in Black and White Paperback – January 30, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Are you black or white?" That question has plagued Nissel, a light-skinned child born to a white father and black mother, since birth; she tackles it with honesty and aplomb in this witty memoir about the years she spent in West Philadelphia during the 1970s and '80s. Whether recalling an oral report on fellow "mulatto" David Hasselhoff that she gave in the third grade ("He's half black because my mother said he is!") or the way she "act[ed] like a 'tard" to escape bullies or her descent into depression (and stay at a psych ward) during her first year at U. Penn, Nissel—a former staff writer for the NBC sitcom Scrubs—infuses her coming-of-age tale with humor and pathos. Nissel's accounts of her college interlude at the "crazy spa" and her attempt at exotic dancing—where she can "play up the cultural thing"—are particularly illuminating. While the former episode helps conquer her fear of outside judgment (with the help of three dementia-stricken old white ladies, no less), the latter smacks her back down, reminding her that maintaining one's own sense of personal identity—free from societal and racial molds—is a daily struggle. Though she often presents herself as less fortunate than she really was, Nissel's writing is very funny and very sharp. (Mar. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–As a light-skinned child born to a black mother and a white father, Nissel has constantly grappled with the question of racial identity. Growing up in West Philadelphia during the 1970s and '80s, she came of age trying to figure out who she was and where she fit. She encountered bullies and interesting friends and teachers, and experienced the turmoil of race-conscious dating. She had a bout of depression while in college, and took on a variety of odd jobs, including one night as an exotic dancer. Through all of this she struggled to maintain her own sense of self in spite of societal views. Nissel is insightful, funny, and a person with whom many readers will identify.–Shannon Seglin, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Villard (January 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345481143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345481146
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Just ME on August 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a mixed girl, I decided to read this book in hopes of see what someone else's experience was like. Hers was not too similar to mine. I could relate to her on some levels, but for the most part I really couldn't. Although I did understand her experiences, even if I couldn't fully personally relate.

The book was kinda funny.

My main problem with the book was that she would never tell you what age she was at each event.

One minute she could be talking about being 11 when something happened, and then all of a sudden be 13 or 14. It got kinda confusing trying to figure out what her age was.

I also felt that towards the end, she started jumping ahead. One minute she speaks of the fact that black men only date white in California. Then she speaks of trying white men out. And the next thing, she is talking about her black husband. She does not go into how she met and how that relationship became a marriage.

It seemed like she left out some things of her story.

Overall, the book was good, it gave a good idea of how the average mixed person growing up has to deal with problems from both blacks and whites. Although my own experiences aren't as similar to hers, it is nice to see someone talk about theirs. I would say Mixed is a great starter book for people who want to know more about biracial people, and even further, want to know more about interracial relationships, being black, etc.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read Nissel's Broke Diaries first, and they were so funny that I had to pick up her only other book. I'm happy I did. She still has the same wit, but isn't as on-it-funny all the time as much as her other book. This is a more direct look at growing up half-black and half-white, with a deadbeat white dad and a caring but cash-strapped black mom (separated, of course).

I really like Nissel's voice, and recommend this to anyone who likes memoirs.
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I really really loved this book so much. I really wish i could have been Angela's friend. She was honest and funny in a heart breaking way. What a great read. I highly recommend it. We are about the same age give or take a few years and so when she was talking about things i remember where I was when she spoke about them.
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Format: Paperback
I am so glad Ms. Nissel wrote this book. Being mixed Black and White myself, I have had similar experiences. So many people fought and cried against our very existence. Shoot, a hundred years of Jim Crow laws went into preventing it.But here we are - mixed and proud - maybe a little difficult to understand - but we're workin' on it. Not all mixed people are alike, but one by one - as we tell our stories, we are beginning to come into ourselves as members of our own group.

Angela does a great job of representing both herself and the rest of us in a responsible, balanced, respectful and humorous way. You will soooo laugh. She has a knack for comedic timing and writing - and boy can she weave a story! Her Broke Diaries book is hilarious as well. Please pick these up when you get a chance. I need to get a couple more copies myself, as all of my family members keep passing them around.
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By Quin on November 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This memoir receives a 5 stars, instead of 4, simply because it is a baring of soul like no other. She holds back nothing, revealing the depth of her weakness and cowardice growing up in such a way you're almost disgusted. But, each personal account deserves an ear. Nissel shares her multiracial perspective with such humor and honesty, that it can only be applauded. 5 stars to Nissel.
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Angela Nissel's book is manipulative, shallow, jokey and predictable, but not entirely worthless. Though the scenes read like bad sit-com set-ups and the dialogue is forced -- Nissel's book deals with important subject matter. Unfortunately, what could have been an honest look at rarely examined issues is constantly blind-sided by the author's surface, sit-com approach.

The (presumably) real characters in the book are rendered as one-dimension cartoons. Mother, brother, best friend . . . are merely words on a page, not people we actually meet.

The book is not so much a story -- but a series of more or less isolated events and situations. Some of the jokes are laugh-out loud funny ("safer hairstyle"). Some of the jokes are painful ("No one kidnaps black kids"). Most of the jokes are predictable (". . . all the times waitresses assumed I wanted hot sauce because I was black").

Nissel seems unwilling to fill in blanks or make connections -- even to herself! The book lurches from episode to episode with no mounting tension and a total lack of realization on Nissel's part.

For so clever a writer, she seems strangely incapable of synthesizing her experience into something worth sharing. Nothing prepares us for her accidental / voluntary stay in a mental institution. Nothing prepares us for her bizarre stint as a stripper or her marriage to a White man that suddenly just happens.

Toward the end, the writer seems to have given up altogether, revealing almost nothing about how she came to terms with the pressures of being "mixed." She ends the book by announcing that -- until her husband mentioned it -- she had never considered how her own multi-ethnic children might fare.

Regardless of this mostly failed attempt, one suspects Nissel could churn out quite a few of these. Given the right characters and situation, she certainly displays the talent to turn in a decent comedy.
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