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Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
Oh, we’re movin’ on up (movin’ on up)
To the top (to the top)
To a deluxe apartment in the sky-y-y…
Remember the sitcom to that song? It seems like there has been plenty of media around the premise of African-Americans invading the Anglo culture trying to assimilate. But rarely does one read about the opposite – how a white family tries to assimilate into the black culture….and this is the book that tells you how…
Mishna Wolff grew up in the poorer and blacker neighborhood of Rainier Valley. Her father left his hippie ways and days behind to hang with the “brothers” and be down with the whole scene, including getting an afro. Her little sister Anora fit in just well with the kids, but Mishna wasn’t as down, and she spent a vast amount of time trying to fit in with the black kids.
The first thing she became skilled at was roastin’ and cappin’. Going to summer camp at the local “Government Subsidized Charity Club” was a lesson in hard knocks, but Mishna learned. After getting capped so many times, the Wonderbread sister started practicing her cappin’ and one day, she roasted her tormentor by telling her, “Am I being talked to by a burnt chocolate chip cookie?” complete with head roll. And Wonderbread girl started slowly making it.
But when Mishna was moved to a new school replete with the wealthy and the privileged, she had to once again socially adjust to being the poor kid, the one with the free lunches and the smelly clothes from Value Village. But always in the corner of her mind she was thinking, “What is wrong with these white people?”
But the pull of two different cultures, a father who wasn’t around a lot, taking care of her dad’s wife’s kids, and a mother who worked 70 hours a week caused a lot of mental and physical stress on her and she knew she had to make drastic choices, even if they were ones that wouldn’t make her father, whom she wanted to please the most, happy…
It takes a certain talent to write about the darkest times in your life while making people laugh, and Wolff writes her memoirs with quick wit and hilarity by looking back at her life of struggle and making her spots brighter. One can’t help laughing hard when reading how she got through obstacles but also be amazed as well that she overcame them. This is a great read about a white kid in a black world, where every opportunity was a wall she had to climb over, whether from sheer luck, determination, or by accident. And boy, how Wolff climbed! A quick read and an extremely enjoyable memoir that looks at one girl’s life in the ghetto living with a dysfunctional family.