Mishna Wolff explores her sometimes complicated, sometimes kooky childhood in the humorous and heartfelt I'm Down: A Memoir.
In her first book, humorist and former model Mishna Wolff recounts her highly unusual childhood as part of the only white family in an all-black Seattle neighborhood. When her parents fell in love and married, it was a hippie romance, but as soon as they moved out of the woods and into the rough and almost entirely unintegrated region where her father, John, had grown up, her Buddhist mom split. Raising Wolff and her younger sister, Anora, their unemployed dad crusaded to make his daughters “down.” As quickly as Wolff mastered the art of capping (exchanging charming insults like “Her ass is so flat, it looks like two saltine crackers that done lost they box!”), her mother roped her into attending a posh school with a program for gifted students. But there, Wolff’s over-the-top attempts to garner attention, including getting violent on the playground and acting out The Exorcist during class, made her akin to “Fear Factor for third graders.” She spent most of her time—whether in the school orchestra or on the basketball court—trying to navigate both worlds while making her father happy. Wolff is a natural storyteller and very funny, which makes reading about some of the more upsetting events, like discovering that a new, rich, white friend has been cutting herself, palatable. And instead of collapsing into stereotypes, Wolff portrays the characters in her life as fully dimensional people, who, in their wildly different ways, were doing their best to fit in.