|| 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.
||White comedian Mishna Wolff relates her memorable childhood as the daughter of a man who went to great lengths to pretend he was black. In an effort to identify with African-American culture, Mishna's father permed his hair, sported thick gold chains, and dated a steady stream of black women, but his daughter had a more difficult time adapting as a minority in her predominantly black school and neighborhood, where her pathetic attempts at dancing and Double-Dutch single her out for ridicule. Just when Mishna begins to gain some recess renown as a master of "capping" (cracking insults) on her schoolmates, her Buddhist mother enrolls her in a school for gifted children, where she faces a new form of discrimination because of the black behavioral traits she worked so hard to develop. Wolff's memoir is filled with rollicking humor and poignant insight into the tenuous identities we construct from class and race.