Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review - I'm Down by Mishna Wolff

I'm Down
Mishna Wolff
St. Martins Press
272p (3 1/2 hrs)
July 2009

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 skeptical of memoirs...but Mishna Wolff's story had me at hello.. .or was it when she said her dad "believed he a was a black man...It wasn't an identity crisis.." (1) Wolff tells the story of trying to fit in, and make friends and be cool. Learning how to "cap" on people (sassy putdowns) and deciding on her future: "Solid Gold Dancer, Capper, Anesthesiologist, Governor, Assasin". (32) She takes us throough her father's romances, usually with beautiful women and him trying to remodel the house, himself. Mostly leaving things undone. Meeting Zwena, who at 10 years old, was the "Julia Child of the food stamp set." (42) Zwena could cook up a mean fried, bologna sandwich. Ah...I remember those days...so much of what Mishna Wolff was describing reminded me of my childhood. I grew up in a poor, black neighborhood and she captured all the humor that helps you not only survive but thrive!

Once Mishna goes to IPP, she feels as if she doesn't fit in anywhere anymore. Always the outcast, the different one. Wolff tells us how she coped, what she did for attention, the tough decisions that seemed to be made for her... She worries herself into tension headaches trying to figure out what is going to happen to her the rest of her life...she was twelve at the time. Trying to find the security that she wasn't getting at home. Through it all, she just wanted her dad's acceptance, wanted him to think she was "down", too.

I loved this book. I put aside everything, I didn't even stop for dinner. I was mesmerized, completely and totally engrossed. Wolff's voice brought her story to life and I was right there, living my own version of trying to be down. It was painful towards the end but well worth the time. It left me with a Wow! It was truly awesome! I could read it again right now!

Other Links
Mishna Wolff's website - check out the pic in the more down section.

Other Reviews
Creative Loafing Review - I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
Citypaper Review - I'm Down by Mishna Wolff

PS: Although this memoir is marketed at adults - YAs could definitely read and understand and discuss it! I will be buying it for our library! Just gotta decide which teacher I'm going to hound to use it...:)

Also, I would like to thank Ben Rubinstein at Macmillan Library for tracking down a copy of this book and sending it to me!!!


  1. This sounds great (and hilarious!). Thanks for reviewing it!

  2. what a lovely review. it is silly but i can sort of identify with her. i was born with spinabifida and felt the outsider as well. when i was that age it was called ranking. i tried it once and hurt someone's feeling so badly, i never did it again. maybe that is why i felt so at ease with other outsiders and they with me.

  3. I saw this in a magazine and really wanted to read it. Awesome review. It sounds great.


  4. I hadn't heard of this. Thanks for the post. It sounds like something I'd enjoy this summer.

  5. What an interesting book. It sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I've never read a memoir. Maybe I'll pick this one up.


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