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Return to Book Page. Preview — I'm Down by Mishna Wolff. Mishna Wolff grew up in a poor black neighborhood with her single father, a white man who truly believed he was black. And so from early chi Mishna Wolff grew up in a poor black neighborhood with her single father, a white man who truly believed he was black. And so from early childhood on, her father began his crusade to make his white daughter Down. She was shy, uncool and painfully white. Get A Copy.

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See 2 questions about I'm Down…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of I'm Down. Jul 26, Jennifer rated it it was amazing Shelves: nonfiction , social-commentary , black-folk , hardee-har-har. I think that it was a very well-written book.

It made me laugh, and think, throughout the entire story. Some felt that the book's message about race diminished as she talked more of class issues through her experiences. Often the two are intertwined simply because of the history of the nature of our relationship with each other and anyone who thinks otherwise is fooling themselves.

Reading pr I think that it was a very well-written book. Reading previous reviews of the book made me a bit upset. Why does it have to be "schtick" that her father acts this way? Why are people reading this as if none of it ever happened? There may be embellishments, but is it so absurd for a White man to "act Black" and have it be who he really is? I wouldn't describe her father as someone who wants to be Black, but as a man who wants to be himself and the him that he is happens to enjoy chicken gizzards.

So be it. It's not a ploy nor is it schtick, but it is who he is. Those who think so are the very people she mentions in the latter half of the book in my opinion. View all 3 comments.

An excellent memoir. Mishna Wolff's reading of the audiobook was very good and she's really funny but I have to say that this audiobook has some of the worst sound I've ever heard on an audiobook.

View 2 comments. Jun 22, Mike Lindgren rated it it was ok Shelves: nonfiction. It's neither, but that shouldn't stop Wolff, who was raised by a white single father in the black working-class town of Rainier Valley, Washington, from making hay with this slight but basically sweet-tempered memoir. Wolff's book has the contours of the classic coming-of-age tale, wherein the awkward and put-upon duckling triumphs over a series of endearing mishaps and eventually turns into a swan the marketing copy identifies Wolff, ominously, as a "humorist and former model".

In Mishna Wolff's case, a background of legitimately harrowing but otherwise unremarkable poverty was made distinctive by her father's insistent adoption of all the hallmarks of urban African-American culture, including the flamboyant clothes, the jewelry, the aggressively ungrammatical argot and the emphasis on toughness and contempt for authority. The result, according to Wolff, was a comical decade-long reverse-passing drama and a childhood marked by substantial identity confusion.

Wolff mines this material for humor, but there's something weird and unintentionally telling going on here. The author treats her father's obsession as source material for rueful isn't-this-crazy comedy, but a man repeatedly putting his two young daughters in considerable danger to prove his "blackness" is, in fact, a sad and desperate spectacle. Other people understand this: John Belushi's famous imitation of Joe Cocker got its sting from the pathos inherent in the lengths white men will go to in order to demonstrate that they have "soul.

Most readers, however jaded, don't think child abuse is funny. The element of I'm Down that, almost incidentally, carries real force is not the racial appropriation but rather the depiction of relentless poverty. Wolff mentions off-handedly that she and her sister often lived for weeks on tapioca and watery corn bread; there's a poignant scene where the teenage author, who has unwittingly high-achieved herself into attendance at a posh private school, forces herself to share her classmates' disdain for the school lunches that she, half-starving, secretly craves.

Wolff describes how she unapologetically latched onto her rich classmates in order to take advantage of their ski trips and European vacations and palatial beachfront homes full of sleek electronics and fully stocked kitchens, only to discard the same girls with contempt once they had served her purposes. A more reflective writer would surely see how sad this is, but Wolff races ahead to the next set piece, like the comic pro she is.

I'm Down is in many ways a catalogue of misplaced emphases and unintended literary effects the prose, for one thing, is flat and clumsy, and the humor feels strained in the way that stand-up routines transferred to the page usually do , but one doesn't feel quite right blaming Mishna Wolff for this, exactly. One of the many irritating things about memoir as a genre is the way it makes special claims for itself, the way it seems to be criticism-proof. With a novel, a dyspeptic critic, especially one not unnerved by the daunting middle-class minefields of race and parenthood, can simply dismiss the lot as so much ill-conceived garbage.

Since a memoir's power is ostensibly grounded in its truthfulness, however, it often feels that the only legitimate objection is to say, "this person's life is not interesting. I hope she doesn't "cap" me. Actual rating: 3.

I had problems with this book that were personal but I really related to Mishna. Sep 06, Margaret rated it it was ok. Summary of Book: Mishna Wolff grew up in a poor black neighborhood with her single father, a white man who truly believed he was black.

My Review: It's hard to find the right words to describe this book. It seems to me that when the author was telling her "story" she picked out the worst things in her father to describe to show how "black" he was.

His womanizing and lack of work ethic were not funny. His attitude towards his daughters and how he let his women treat his daughters was not funny. Many of the things that black families are trying to overcome are hysterical to this author Now I do understand not fitting in with your community and being moved to different schools to be challenged and people's attitudes toward you when this happens. Now some parts of the book were funny, like her stint with the basketball teams and some of her other antics trying to fit in.

But I didn't find any of the book hysterical. Lucky it was a quick read! Disclaimer: This was a book from my personal collection. Love and Blessings! View all 4 comments. People think this book is funny? What on earth is the matter with those people? This book isn't funny.

It's depressing as all get-out. And it's not about racial identity, it's about child neglect and massive dysfunction. Goodness, the people who think this book is about racial identity have some seriously racist ideas about racial identity.

Obviously, this author turned out ok. But good lord, reading about how she was "raised" made me want to go back in time, find her, and rescue her from those w People think this book is funny? But good lord, reading about how she was "raised" made me want to go back in time, find her, and rescue her from those weak, pathetic, selfish people who did not deserve to be parents.

I might have tried to rescue one or two of her friends, as well. Honestly, only one kid in this entire book had people worthy of the title of parent.

I'm not giving this book 2 stars for the writing. The writing is good. It's a compelling story.


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Martin's Press in In the book, she relates her experience of being white while growing up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood and having a different financial situation and culture than the other white children at her gifted student public school program filled with mostly white kids. She fights for acceptance in her neighborhood as she is perceived as "too white" while she struggles with acceptance and accepting others in her prestigious school. Mishna has trouble dealing with bullying from her peers, meeting the expectations her father sets for her no matter how unusual they seem , the pressure she puts on herself, and learning who she is while society is pushing and pulling her into what they want her to be. She competes with the children in her neighborhood to be the funniest, the meanest, and the toughest while she strives to be rich, successful, and seemingly carefree like her school friends.


I’m Down: A Memoir

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. 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. Once again, Wolff finds herself the outcast among the wealthy white kids who own horses and take lavish vacations. During the Covid crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below. View Full Version of PW.

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