Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “I'm Down” as Want to Read:
I'm Down
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

I'm Down

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  6,925 ratings  ·  967 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 chi ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by St. Martin's Press
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  6,925 ratings  ·  967 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of I'm Down
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.

Reading pr
Dec 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

BOOK *****
Mike Lindgren
Jun 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Destiny (myhoneyreads)
Actual rating: 3.5

Memoirs aren’t really my thing but it was interesting to see Wolff’s perspective on race and poor vs rich. I had problems with this book that were personal but I really related to Mishna. I wouldn’t reread it but it was enjoyable.
Sep 06, 2010 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. “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
May 19, 2013 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
Nov 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’m Down by Mishna Wolff

When a white child grows up in a white family with a father who thinks he’s black, acts like he’s black and expects his wife and 2 very young daughters to be just as black as the neighborhood they are growing up in, it can be a bit unnerving. Sure, he fits in, having grown up there and already making his mark, but in the few years away, when the children are born, there is a separation that Mishna, at just 6, can’t quite bring together.
When her parents divorce shortly
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2011 rated it did not like it
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. 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
Jul 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Kierstin Leah
Apr 06, 2015 rated it did not like it
Mishna, girl, listen to me: your father abused you.

I’ll say it slower: your. father. abused. you. He is a bad person and he deserves to feel bad.

If any of you who are reading this find yourselves identifying with this girl’s experience in terms of her family dynamic, message me right now and I’ll call CPS for you. And that’s the worst thing about this book, the fact that CPS would have taken she and her sister away from her father had anyone contacted them at almost any point in the book. Fuck
Heather Downs
Apr 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
May 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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
Jun 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 21, 2013 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
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I had hoped that this book would be as hilarious as promised, but it was often just extremely distressing to read.

What was likely meant to be read as a series of dark yet humorous anecdotes about Wolff's childhood read more like a seemingly never-ending list of times Wolff was failed, gaslighted, or outright victimized by the adults in her life. Finding little to none of the comedic relief I kept searching for, the book just kept getting more and more anxiety-inducing.

Overall, the book was not
A few weeks ago, I finished Mishna Wolff's 2009 memoir I'm Down. What a funny and bittersweet tale of family, identity, and acceptance! A white girl raised in a poor black neighborhood by a black-identified white father, Wolff is bewildered, and she craves approval and normalcy. Neither is in the cards for her, unfortunately, and her formative years (2-14) are spent fighting, going hungry, and being misunderstood. She stumbles through class and race warfare. Wolff knows she will never be truly " ...more
Apr 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Dr. E
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was ok

Entertaining at times. Borderline insulting the rest. Although the author shares her story along the lines of class, her implicit racism made for an offensive and painful read. Not that she has to reconcile this as it is her narrative, but it seemed she tried to go there and did so very recklessly. As a reader I found her "recollections" (better yet, observations) to be superficial, exploitive, and even patronizing regarding her experiences in her "community". I was hoping for more and got less
Brown Girl Reading
May 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
I absolutely hated this book! To read a more in depth review check out my post at on Saturday. ...more
Nov 11, 2009 rated it liked it
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.
Ranata Clark
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. I related to this and I AM BLACK! I felt some of the struggles fitting in that Mishna Wolff felt. (view spoiler) ...more
Jul 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing

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
For me this wasn't a complete memoir even after the author puts down on paper... this is best to her recollection of events as she remembers from her early age of growing up. Mishna left out crucial details of time spent with mother on weekends after the divorce. She wasn't always stuck in this neighborhood growing up.

Issues: Really a working mother who didn't think she could get her children away from a father who was not working and the house conditions were questionable? Whether, the man had
Bonnie G.
Oct 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mishna was a white girl raised in a poor black neighbourhood in Seattle. Her father wanted to think he was black, so that’s the neighbourhood he chose to raise his two daughters. Mishna, in particular, had a hard time fitting in when she was young. Once she finally started making friends in the neighbourhood, though she still lived there, she had tested high on some academic tests, so she had to switch to a school in a rich neighbourhood with smart rich kids, and once again, she didn’t know how ...more
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
I did not enjoy this book - I felt like it relied heavily on stereotypes to provide comedic effect, which was unsuccessful. Living in Seattle, I had also hoped that this might be an interesting view of a neighborhood, but it could really have taken place in any city where there are majority black and majority white residential areas.

It did prompt decent discussion as a book club pick.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: I'm Down / Mishna Wolff. 4 stars 1 17 Sep 12, 2018 08:55PM  
reviews 4 60 Jun 21, 2011 03:14PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Persian Girls
  • Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America's Most Dangerous Amusement Park
  • Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member
  • Mrs. Packard
  • And Never Let Her Go: Thomas Capano: The Deadly Seducer
  • It's. Nice. Outside.
  • My Best Friend's Exorcism / Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge [Exclusive Chaplet]
  • Canyon Dreams: A Basketball Season on the Navajo Nation
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Inside the Trial and Final Days of Aaron Hernandez
  • At the Coalface: Part 1 of 3: The memoir of a pit nurse
  • Didn't See That Coming: Putting Life Back Together When Your World Falls Apart
  • Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project
  • The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation
  • The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life
  • The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy
  • An American Life
  • Imperfect Justice: Prosecuting Casey Anthony
  • Thrown
See similar books…

News & Interviews

  Let’s say it now and say it proud: Horror is back.  This summer, as the world was thrown into uncertainty by a pandemic and our...
104 likes · 31 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“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
More quotes…