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I'm Down: A Memoir


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About the Author

Mishna Wolff is a comedian and former model who grew up in Seattle. She divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles.


Adult/High School-In a memoir that is frequently hilarious, occasionally terrifying, and ultimately bittersweet, Wolff forces readers to consider whether racial identity is the result of nature, derived through nurture, or constructed and reconstructed throughout life. The author was born to white parents and raised into early adolescence mostly by her father, a man who worked harder to remake his own and his children's identities as black than he did at earning a living. From early childhood she tried hard to sort through evidence of her own sense of self and belonging: rougher kids in their working-class black Seattle neighborhood rejected her while adoring her younger (equally white) sister; other black kids accepted her as an equal or pitied her confusion; her father's second wife (black) rejected her cruelly; and her mother was willing to take her in but not to confront her former husband's careless child rearing. When her mother enrolled her in a public school program for intellectually gifted children, Wolff had to accommodate her worldview to take into account her classmates' relative wealth and mindless racism. Father and daughter eventually found a bridge through sports, but this rapprochement was made possible as much by the author's maturing emotional health as by her father's realization that he risked losing her. Wolff writes fluidly and offers moments of great insight through story rather than through explanation, making it easy for readers to engage with the child's questions and growing frustrations. An excellent choice for discussion in ethnic identity curricula, but absorbing reading, too.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"This buoyant memoir is rich in detail but never feels over embellished...I'm Down manages to be light and triumphant because of the hilarious child-goggles Wolff wears while spinning her tales." - ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY (RATING: A)"

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 2009 Reed Business Information.

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