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I'm Down: A Memoir

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3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,572 Ratings  ·  847 Reviews
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 childho ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by St. Martin's Press
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jennifer
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. Why is it that people think that race & class, when dealing with White & Black people, can be separated? 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.

Re
...more
Mike Lindgren
Jun 22, 2009 Mike Lindgren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Mishna Wolff's I'm Down purports to be both a ragingly funny family-dysfunction memoir à la Sedaris or Burroughs, and a perceptive take on racial identity. 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 seri
...more
Margaret
Sep 06, 2010 Margaret rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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. “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 i
...more
Lillian
Jun 23, 2009 Lillian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I read this book cover to cover in one day. It kept me hooked throughout but left me with many questions. Mishna Wolff's harrowing childhood was defined by her struggle to fit in--first, as the lone white kid in her predominantly African-American neighborhood and later, as the lone poor kid in the predominantly white, upper class school she tested into. Wolff does a beautiful job capturing the vulnerability of being a kid; she makes the reader feel keenly the moments of painful embarrassment she ...more
Terry
May 04, 2010 Terry rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Well, I read this in one day, so it must be pretty good...right? Eh, it was only okay. I felt like the story was more about class than it was about race. Tt's not like she connected to the people in her neighborhood AT ALL, so I don't feel like she was torn between two races, which is what the book is publicized as being about, as much as she was torn between her impoverished family and the private school she attended for smart (white) kids. Once she befriended people at her new school the kids ...more
Tracey
I'm glad Mishna Wolff wrote about the uncommon story of her childhood, though I don't feel like I got enough of it. In some ways, her experience featured a lot of the typical b.s. that parents put their kids through (divorce, empty promises, forced participation in sports), but all of that all-too-common stuff got filtered through Wolff's double life as a white girl living in an all-black neighborhood with a father who was, sounds like, convinced he was black. Reading about Wolff struggling to a ...more
Lesley
Jan 31, 2010 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, adult
This book has a great schtick (white man who wishes he was black tries to raise his daughter to be like him) but to me it's a lot more than just a schtick. Without being pedantic, it explores the question of what it means to be "black": Does it mean blowing off school to focus on "capping"? Playing the sax instead of the violin? Playing basketball instead of skiing? Does not liking Jody Watley make you racist? There are questions about class as well as race. There's a lot of poignancy, but one o ...more
Donisha
Jul 25, 2011 Donisha rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hated this book so much. I tried and tried to enjoy it but I just couldn't. I read it in it's entirety hoping the humor would come in at some point. Yea....it never happened. The premise sounded fantastic but the writing was flat. Nothing about this story was funny. More then anything it sounded so sad. She never fit in, she was treated like crap, she stood in the shadow of her younger sister, who always was "down" and could do no wrong and her dad treated her kinda crappy. The weird part abou ...more
Roberta
Feb 19, 2011 Roberta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A memoir by a woman who grew up in Seattle in the '80s, raised by a white father who truly seemed to think he was black. Mishna does everything to please him - turning herself inside out to be"down".

The book is snort your coke funny in places. I'm not surprised to hear that Wolff is a comedian. It's very sharply observed and her turn of phrase can be brilliant. The book is also sad and pathetic, especially when Mishna's dad fails to stand up for or acknowledge her for who she actually is. It's a
...more
Sarah
May 20, 2013 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Robin
Apr 12, 2009 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm skeptical about memoirs now. It wasn't just James Frey that made me skeptical. Since then, there have been many memoirs, both published and unpublished, that have proven to be false. So, while I very much liked this book, I'm not at all convinced that it was true. The beautiful thing is that it doesn't matter. If it is true, great. I can't wait to read the rest of the story. If it isn't true, great. I can't wait to read the rest of the story.

The writing was engaging and it read like fiction
...more
Robin
I have been wanting to read this for months! Through the magic of ILL, it is now mine. Tra-la.

This book is fascinating and mesmerizing. Wolff tells the story of her upbringing with amazing humor and calm. Throughout the book, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Her style is clearly funny, but her stories are full of such unfairness and the bewilderment of a child who simply is not being taken care of. From her perspective, no adult and no other child in her life has even bothered to try to fi
...more
Joshua
Jul 24, 2009 Joshua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was shown the book by a good friend at work, and we though it looked funny. However, my sensitivities were heightened about this book by another good friend of mine, and so I went in ready to be offended by it. I probably would have put off reading it for a while if not for a friend of mine from work that wanted to read it as well.

At first, I could not help but think, "This does in fact seem a little racist." As Mishna further introduced me to the leading players, however, I began to realize
...more
Anita
Jul 18, 2009 Anita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It reminded me of The Glass Castle. It doesn't cover quite the same time-span as GC but it is packed with similar elements; the well-intentioned but misguided parents, the poverty, the confusion that comes with growing up, and ultimately figuring some things out despite a million obstacles. It's funny, sad, and short, and I liked the way it covered themes of race and class. It is a weirdly profound little tale told from a kid's-eye-view. Oh, and the cover is priceless. Every t ...more
Julie
Jun 03, 2016 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, 5-star
Excellent memoir . If you get a chance, listen to it on audio ,as read by the author . She is perfect as the "voice" of her dad .
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
...more
Bunny
May 27, 2013 Bunny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Seriously, who decided to market this as a humor book? I would like to meet the person in charge who thought that was a good idea.

This isn't a humorous book. There is nothing funny about Mishna's story, and I hated her quite a lot because she wrote this book, she's narrating this book, and she either sold it as a humor book, or allowed it to happen.

This is the story of a little girl who is an outcast for being white, both by classmates and her complete vagabond asshole of a father. Then she move
...more
Jennifer
Nov 11, 2009 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Book Overview

Mishna Wolff was born to white hippie parents in Vermont. However, when her family moves back to Seattle, her father drops the pretense of being "a white man" and becomes the "black man" he fancies himself to be. Having grown up in a predominantly black neighborhood during his childhood, Mishna's father immerses himself in the speech patterns, clothing and culture of his black friends. He expects his daughters to do the same. For Mishna's younger sister Anora, this wasn't a problem.
...more
georgia
Dec 10, 2015 georgia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
2009 272 pages

I rarely read memoirs uness they are heavily recommended. The premise is about a mixed race girl, mostly white traits, growing up with a black skinned father in a lesser part of LA.

So, bi racial couple marry bringing two girls into the world. They live with dad who is not the best role model for finishing projects, relationships, providing food or timeliness. Mishna, the eldest, usually is left to fend for herself, which, in the end, makes her more resilient to life. She is a smar
...more
Erin
Sep 13, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While reading this, i vacillated from either laughing hysterically, or wanting to cry. Mishna Wolff's memoir of her childhood growing up with her dad is really pretty harrowing, but the way she talks about it and chronicles events, you cannot help but appreciate her wit. I know James Frey has ruined the memoir genre for everyone, but honestly who even cares if this story is totally true or not? Either way, the kind of things Wolff goes through as a child are possible to relate to even if your fo ...more
Christopher Roth
A perfectly entertaining book about a girl—now a stand-up comedian and, as you can see, memoirist—who grew up as a white girl raised by her white hippie parents (later just the dad) in the midst of a heavily black neighborhood in Seattle. This is certainly fodder enough for a good memoir, and there are some very funny and entertaining passages with lovely insights into the differences between black and white sociability. Wolff is a stand-up comedian, after all, and she has the keen powers social ...more
Bonnie
Oct 28, 2013 Bonnie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was straight up disturbing. I make jokes about things that are sad or embarrassing as part of my processing. I am a fan of rather dark humor. Still, there are some things I can't laugh at, and I am glad of it. On that list are child abuse, child endangerment, child neglect, abandonment, domestic violence, people who are so lazy they leech off the system rather than getting off their asses and going to work, etc. I am a Marc Maron fan, so I expected a delightfully screwed up archness he ...more
Max J.
Jul 26, 2011 Max J. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Samantha Penrose
Aug 15, 2015 Samantha Penrose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YOU!
This book is full of chuckles and is a light enough read to breeze through any place, any time. I attempted to get it in the audio book version (it would have been my first audio book experience), but the book version became available to me first; I'm a little disappointed, I bet it would be great to hear it read aloud by Mishna Wolff!
Mishna is an awkward white girl who grows up in a predominately black neighborhood of South Seattle. While her father and sister fit right in, Mishna is endlessly
...more
Amy
Jun 24, 2011 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Memoir of a white family growing up in a black neighborhood in Seattle.

This is more about class differences than race, and it’s very much about distracted parenting. Mishna’s father is the dominant figure and the puzzle here. His overidentification with his black neighbors is charming, really, compared to the other characteristics that make him a book-worthy father. (and what did his neighbors think of him, I wonder . . . .)

Funny anecdotes about Mishna’s father enrolling her in one sporting acti
...more
Julie
Aug 25, 2010 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I got this book on audio cd and really wanted to love it, since I loved the premise... but alas, I really had a hard time with the author's voice. She didn't have enough emotion to read her own memoir and it sounded strange that she had such a flat affect most of the time. Also - when she read her dad's voice, it just put me off. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but I didn't like it.

As for the actual memoir.... some interesting stories and annecdotes, but I'm such a skeptic when it comes to
...more
Samantha
May 23, 2011 Samantha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
GENRE- MEMOIR

I'm Down is a memoir written by Mishna Wolff based on her life growing up as a white girl in a "wannabe" black family. Confident of being black, her white father raised Mishna and her sister in a very African American and Ghetto environment where the trend was to diss other people and speack with incorrect grammar. Having divorced parents, Mishna and her sister lived mostly with their father and stayed with their mother on the weekends. Growing up Mishna had a hard time adjusting to
...more
Kathy
Jul 28, 2009 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mishna grew up in a poor black neighborhood in Seattle. Her parents divorced when she was young and she and her sister Anora were raised by her dad. Her mom left - she had to go find herself. But the weirdest thing about 2 girls being raised by a single, dad in the 'hood? Being white. "White, white, white, white, white, white, white, white. I think it's important to make this clear..." (1) And so begins one of the funniest, most heartbreaking, memoirs I've read in a long time.

I'm always skeptica
...more
Eris
Mar 02, 2009 Eris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great and fast read. Her portrayals of the people in her life were vivid, and gave you the sight, sound, and sometimes scent of being there. The only bad thing I can say about this is that the marketing is focusing it on her white fathers fetishizing of black culture (to the point that he accuses his own daughter of being a racist), but there is a lot more going on than just that. This is more about growing up with a narcissistic, adolescent (developmentally) father than anything, and ...more
Heather Downs
May 17, 2011 Heather Downs rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book but clearly didn't. Wolff wrote about her unconventional childhood with a divorced father who had an affinity for black culture. In reading some of the reviews, it appears that the way that she describes her father's association with black culture is supposed to be hilarious. It isn't. She has a very essentialist view of what composes black culture. One of the major, and very troubling, associations that she makes to black culture is that one of the core values ...more
Gail
Aug 28, 2010 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir, set in Seattle in (I'm guessing) the '80s. However, I strongly disagree with the reviews on the back of the book, which call it "funny" or "hilarious." I did NOT find this book funny, although there may have been the occasional amusing moment. Rather, it is a sometimes cheerless story of trying to fit in while growing up. The author was a skinny young white girl in a black neighborhood, being raised by a white father who "thought he was black." During her early ...more
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reviews 4 59 Jun 21, 2011 03:14PM  
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“I knew things like if you had fifty cents, and you stole a dollar from the slow kid, you had a dollar fifty” 4 likes
“And at this point, spacey didn't even begin to describe it - she was catatonic without the commitment.” 1 likes
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