Mixed: My Life in Black and White | Loving Day

Mixed: My Life in Black and White

Wed, 03/10/2010 - 4:41pm -- eddien
Resource Category: 
Angela Nissel

"Are you black or white?" That question has plagued Nissel, a light-skinned child born to a white father and black mother, since birth; she tackles it with honesty and aplomb in this witty memoir about the years she spent in West Philadelphia during the 1970s and '80s. Whether recalling an oral report on fellow "mulatto" David Hasselhoff that she gave in the third grade ("He's half black because my mother said he is!") or the way she "act[ed] like a 'tard" to escape bullies or her descent into depression (and stay at a psych ward) during her first year at U. Penn, Nissel — a former staff writer for the NBC sitcom [scrubs] — infuses her coming-of-age tale with humor and pathos. Nissel's accounts of her college interlude at the "crazy spa" and her attempt at exotic dancing — where she can "play up the cultural thing" — are particularly illuminating. While the former episode helps conquer her fear of outside judgment (with the help of three dementia-stricken old white ladies, no less), the latter smacks her back down, reminding her that maintaining one's own sense of personal identity—free from societal and racial molds—is a daily struggle. Though she often presents herself as less fortunate than she really was, Nissel's writing is very funny and very sharp.