I'm Down
By Mishna Wolff
288 pages; St. Martin's

As she tells you at the outset of I'm Down , Mishna Wolff is all white—nothing remarkable, except that her way cool father, "Wolfy," thinks he's black (he's not). What follows is a funny-melancholy coming-of-age memoir about a honky manqué who tries to beat her handicaps (including a "rhythm problem") to please her father and disarm the kids in her tough south Seattle neighborhood. Self-taught in "capping," the social art of insult ("I tried every possible ending for a sentence that starts out: 'Your mama'"), Mishna searches for an identity in her broken home, her snobby, mostly white prep school, and—most restrictive of all—her longing heart.

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