I’m not very computer savvy, and I don’t have any particular interest in Steve Jobs. I’ve never even seen any of the movies about him. But I do like memoirs, so when I saw Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs on NPR’s Best Books of 2018 list, I decided to give it a try.
Lisa grew up in Silicon Valley in the 1980’s. Her parents, Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs, were high school sweethearts (if I’m remembering correctly). Her parents were together on and off for years before Lisa’s mother became pregnant with her. Steve Jobs denied it was his kid and the two broke up. Jobs continued to deny paternity for a large chunk of Lisa’s life–even after a paternity test. When he did finally become a part of her life, it was often awkward and difficult.
The book is an intimate look at Lisa’s childhood and coming-of-age under some very specific and challenging circumstances. Lisa’s mother was loving but was not stable, either emotionally or financially. On the other hand, Lisa’s father was initially not even a part of her life. In later years, he is distant, demanding, and manipulative in pretty shocking ways.
Lisa struggles, as children do who yearn for the love of a parent, and I appreciate how honest she is with her feelings. Desperate for her father’s attention, every slight from him hurts her so badly. One scene when he excludes her from the family picture was especially memorable. It’s like he did not even see her as a person with feelings.
Lisa’s relationship with her mother is also problematic. In Lisa’s younger years, her mother is not stable enough to have a consistent home. Chrisann also seems to have mental health problems that Lisa had to navigate. When Lisa grows up, she rejects the parent that has steadily loved her as she tries to obtain the love of her father. At one point Jobs requires that Lisa not see her mother for six months if she is going to move in with him. It’s cruel and unnecessary, but Lisa does it.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was consistently interesting, and emotionally honest. I imagine that people who have a strong interest in Steve Jobs would find this inside look at his family even more intriguing. Going into this book, I knew almost nothing about Jobs. I now have more of an interest in watching the Fassbender movie about him, but I was also not impressed. He was very successful, and he changed the world, but I think that how you treat people is more important in the long run.
You can find all of my reviews on my blog.