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Monday, June 28, 2010

I'm Down by Mishna Barton

If you ever felt like you were the wrong color or class as a kid, you might enjoy this amusing memoir, now out in paperback.  If you listen to the free library audio, as I did, you'll get to hear this story in the author's own voice, including her hilarious impressions of her own father, who, although he was White, thought he was very, very Black.  Set in a Black neighborhood of Seattle, Mishna and her younger sister Anora are also like black and white, apples and oranges.  While Mishna is a meek, gawky kid worried about everything and everyone,  Anora is by contrast, innately charming and fearless, and lives in the present moment.  Anora continues to assimilate easily to her surroundings (think corn rows), including the revolving cast of characters brought into their home by their Dad's love life.   This is really a story of Mishna though, and how she moves through adolescence.  When Mishna does very well on some aptitude tests, her hippie mother gets her transferred to a wealthy white school where once again, Mishna is traversing alien territory.  She learns tricks along the way, such as claiming she is allergic to raisins when asked why her lunch ticket (subsidized) is a different color than everyone else's.    Mishna's values are in stark contrast to that of the most influential person in her life, her dad.  In the end, she gets by on her brains, her heart, and her competitive spirit.   This book could easily have gone astray to one extreme or another, but somehow we see different sides of each character, just the way we are in real life.  A good summer read!

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