4 out of 5
Mishna Wolff grew up in a poor black neighborhood with her single father, a white man who truly believed he was black. “He strutted around with a short perm, a Cosby-esqe sweater, gold chains and a Kangol—telling jokes like Redd Fox, and giving advice like Jesse Jackson. You couldn’t tell my father he was white. Believe me, I tried,” writes Wolff. And so from early childhood on, her father began his crusade to make his white daughter Down.
Unfortunately, Mishna didn’t quite fit in with the neighborhood kids: she couldn’t dance, she couldn’t sing, she couldn’t double dutch and she was the worst player on her all-black basketball team. She was shy, uncool and painfully white. And yet when she was suddenly sent to a rich white school, she found she was too “black” to fit in with her white classmates.
I’m Down is a hip, hysterical and at the same time beautiful memoir that will have you howling with laughter, recommending it to friends and questioning what it means to be black and white in America.
When I first started this book, I thought of the line from the Steve Martin movie, The Jerk…”I was born a poor black child…” This memoir could have gone horribly wrong at any point, but the authors pulled off a very funny and poignant story about her childhood. I admit parts had me almost in tears but then Wolff writes about something funny and pulls you back from despair. I highly recommend this one!
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 26, 2009)