I'm Down Mishna Wolff is white. But her hippie dad "truly believed he was black" — and raised her as if she were too. As a kid,… I'm Down Mishna Wolff is white. But her hippie dad "truly believed he was black" — and raised her as if she were too. As a kid,… 2009-05-26 Memoir Nonfiction St. Martin's Press
Book Review

I'm Down (2009)

I'm Down | I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
EW's GRADE
A

Details Release Date: May 26, 2009; Writer: Mishna Wolff; Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction; Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Mishna Wolff is white. But her hippie dad ''truly believed he was black'' — and raised her as if she were too. As a kid, Wolff tried to please her father and prove she was ''down'' by sporting cornrows; playing on an all-black 
 basketball team; and taking up cappin', the sassy urban dissing that abounds on playgrounds. You can't help but laugh and cringe at her first attempts at insult: At one point, the little white girl barks at one of her dark-skinned classmates, ''Am I being talked to by a burnt chocolate chip cookie?'' Despite earnest efforts, Wolff can't cut it as a black girl. At the behest of her mother, she wins a spot at a private school and samples all the trimmings with her new friends: skiing, summering in France. None of this proves any easier.

All of Wolff's experiences funnel into this buoyant memoir, which is rich in detail but never feels overembellished. Memories about the struggle to fit in can seem like pleas for pity, but Wolff doesn't go there — she explains everything as simply a matter of fact, which is endearing. Down certainly has 
 serious thoughts on its mind (Wolff actually grew up quite poor and hungry), but the 
 tone manages to be light and triumphant 
 because of the hilarious child-goggles Wolff wears while spinning her tales. A

Originally posted May 26, 2009 Published in issue #1050 Jun 05, 2009 Order article reprints
Advertisement

From Our Partners