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Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents--artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs--Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and p Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents--artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs--Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he'd become the parent she'd always wanted him to be. Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs's poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents' fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.


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Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents--artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs--Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and p Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents--artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs--Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he'd become the parent she'd always wanted him to be. Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs's poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents' fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

30 review for Small Fry

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook....narrated by Eileen Stevens “I’m one of the most important people you will ever know”.... Who talks like that?...to your 3 year old daughter? But ... it’s TRUE!!! Steve Jobs ‘was’ the most important person Lisa Brennan-Jobs knew growing up. He was her ‘daddy’. Can we laugh now? Of course we see the sadness. Lisa grew up in the distant shadows of one of the most well known names on the planet - computer genius - Steve Jobs. But...... Must this be a serious review? Sorry - read other revie Audiobook....narrated by Eileen Stevens “I’m one of the most important people you will ever know”.... Who talks like that?...to your 3 year old daughter? But ... it’s TRUE!!! Steve Jobs ‘was’ the most important person Lisa Brennan-Jobs knew growing up. He was her ‘daddy’. Can we laugh now? Of course we see the sadness. Lisa grew up in the distant shadows of one of the most well known names on the planet - computer genius - Steve Jobs. But...... Must this be a serious review? Sorry - read other reviews for ‘serious’. You’ll find plenty of opinions. Lisa was either authentic and wonderful or vindictive... or .. or... or... ‘whatever’!! Depends on readers points of views. I won’t loose any sleep feeling sorry for Lisa. Everyone- Steve Jobs -Lisa - Lisa’s mother, Chrisann, their parents friends, Lisa’s friends ... ‘everyone’ was flawed. Silicon Valley isn’t exactly flawless - either. We have a housing shortage- yet Apple and Google - both - continue to build spaceship- type companies employing thousands and thousands of workers. Lisa’s childhood growing up thrifty around wealthy is more common than people realized. Yet... it’s confusing to a kid. Side-by-side .... here in Palo Alto - Los Altos Hills - Menlo Park- Atherton - Woodside - even in Monte Sereno- there are single mom’s raising a child living in a back cottage of a larger house. Lisa ‘wasn’t’ the only child with a single mom in the Bay Area. But...I’m sure it felt like that to her at the time. Paul and I were ‘cracking up’ listening to this Audiobook together. Are we bad? We had our own side dialogue going. Buddy Listening with your spouse is a blast of fun. Our soaking in the warm pool for a few hours of listening was part of our enjoyment/ listening. Paul & I both found this book interesting. Interesting is an interesting word choice .... but that’s what I’m going with. Paul was funny. “Whose Debbie, again and why was she important?”, he asks me. Debbie was an older woman/ friend to Lisa when she was a child. Her mom was terribly jealous; the relationship ended abruptly. And.... “Steve wasn’t ‘that’ bad”...Paul says!! “well, ok, maybe he was”, Paul says later... “Why did Lisa write this book?” “I don’t know, Paul... should we call Lisa and ask her?” “They never talk to each other”, Paul says during a very funny dinner scene over a salad at Steve’s Woodside Home. Soo funny... it’s true. Conversation wasn’t a strong suit. A few activities with dad growing up: ...roller skating ...a visit to his office ...a ride in his Porsche ...dinner alone and a sleepover at his Woodside house. ...soaking in the hot tub together ...a delivery - gift of a Mac Computer ...but conversation? Not really! Activities with mom: ...Drawing, ( mom was a talented starving artist) ...day trips, (museums), ...pool parties at friends who swim naked. ... moving 13 times ...a ‘break-in’ to take a couch from Steve’s house in Monte Sereno when Steve didn’t show- up. ( proud ‘mom’ moment)... ha! So? What to make of this book? It’s your choice!! Read it - don’t read it. It’s not going to change your life either way. It’s Lisa’s memoir. I’m going with the full 5 stars: ...enjoyment human interest story - for both Paul & I

  2. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    4.5 Well, I gobbled this one up in a few short days. As soon as I started reading this, I was fascinated and totally immersed in Lisa's story. Steve Jobs, Apple, not many happy not heard that too names. I don't use Apple products myself, don't even, voluntarily mind you, own a cell phone, but my daughter is an avid user. I'm just blown away by all the interesting non fiction being published right now. This one was garnering such great reviews from critics and readers alike, I had to grab it. Lisa 4.5 Well, I gobbled this one up in a few short days. As soon as I started reading this, I was fascinated and totally immersed in Lisa's story. Steve Jobs, Apple, not many happy not heard that too names. I don't use Apple products myself, don't even, voluntarily mind you, own a cell phone, but my daughter is an avid user. I'm just blown away by all the interesting non fiction being published right now. This one was garnering such great reviews from critics and readers alike, I had to grab it. Lisa, the eldest daughter of Steve Jobs, her parents never married, separated before the was born. For the first years of her life, he denied she was his child. Eventually, due to child support payments, a judge would order a paternity test taken, which proved she was his. Though for s time he would still deny this fact. When she was a little older he began to pay hef more attention, entering and leaving her life, sporadically. Caught between two such disparate parents, lifestyles, her father alternately demanding, of negligent, her mother struggking financially and emotionally, she struggled to find her place, where she belonged. Such interesting reading, so many insights into a life few will live or see. To say Jobs was a strange duck, with strange ways, is an understatement. It would be easy to dismiss him as just another negligent, self centered man, but I think he also struggled. To connect, to communicate, adopted as a child I felt he was very insecure, had strange ways of making people prove they cared about him. Lisa, tells her story, or their story, honestly send without dramatics. Saying, this I how it was, how I felt, how I wished it could be. Difficult upbringing, struggling often, she does remarkablly well, not without a great deal of trying and tears, I'm sure, but as always I'm amazed by the strength and versatility of the human spirit. She is a truly amazing young woman.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    In Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs laments on her nostalgic and at times quite bizarre childhood à la Mommie Dearest (although certainly not to the extent of defamation like the latter). The illegitimate daughter of technology mogul Steve Jobs, Lisa lived in idyllic California at a time where this was a place of dreamers and thinkers and the power of computers for the average consumer was being recognized. I wouldn't necessarily call this one of those "child abuse" memoirs, although there was a lot In Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs laments on her nostalgic and at times quite bizarre childhood à la Mommie Dearest (although certainly not to the extent of defamation like the latter). The illegitimate daughter of technology mogul Steve Jobs, Lisa lived in idyllic California at a time where this was a place of dreamers and thinkers and the power of computers for the average consumer was being recognized. I wouldn't necessarily call this one of those "child abuse" memoirs, although there was a lot of neglect on the part of Steve Jobs himself. Instead it reads more like a coming-of-age story about a girl who still loves her father but has only just been coming to terms with his strange actions. Another central figure in the book is Lisa's mother, who often moved her from one place to the next, and alongside Lisa's years of growing up, Apple computers were establishing themselves both in pop culture and in the homes of a ton of users, bringing not just notoriety but also questions. Why was Jobs so reluctant to acknowledge his daughter's existence yet he still spent time with her on occasion? Why was the choice of naming the "Lisa" computer such a mystery? Why did Steve have no problem with his step-children and colleagues, but Lisa was largely ignored? Meanwhile Lisa eventually moves in with her father, highlighting a relationship that's both strained and dysfunctional yet still built from desperate affection. Steve Jobs himself is deceased and therefore can't speak for himself on the matter, so what here in Small Fry is embellished remains a bit foggy. Still, it brings to light a less glamorous side of the high-stakes 1980's atmosphere of America and the callousness of the environment behind all that rhetoric about dreams and imagination. It's less about Steve Jobs and more about a girl trying to understand the strange and falsely idyllic world she spent her childhood in.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I love to read memoirs. I do not love to read memoirs in which the author is either begging for pity or bragging. Unfortunately, in Small Fry Lisa Brennan-Jobs does both. She writes very well, descriptively, and engagingly; otherwise, I would not have been able to stomach this book at all. She held my attention even whilst she annoyed the hell out of me. Small Fry is about Lisa's childhood and her relationship with her sometimes-there/sometimes-not-there father, Steve Jobs. Nothing shocking that I love to read memoirs. I do not love to read memoirs in which the author is either begging for pity or bragging. Unfortunately, in Small Fry Lisa Brennan-Jobs does both. She writes very well, descriptively, and engagingly; otherwise, I would not have been able to stomach this book at all. She held my attention even whilst she annoyed the hell out of me. Small Fry is about Lisa's childhood and her relationship with her sometimes-there/sometimes-not-there father, Steve Jobs. Nothing shocking that he wasn't Father of the Year material. He could be emotionally distant and awkward and wasn't always around when she was young. However, he did not seem to be the monster she often wants us to think he was. At least to me, her childhood seemed rather normal and easy, even enviable, nothing to feel sorry for her about. OK, it's not fun to worry that maybe your father doesn't love you, and I feel compassion for the child she was that she often didn't feel loved and cared about by him. However, she was not physically or sexually abused, was loved by her parents, was never homeless, didn't lack medical care, didn't go to bed hungry or go without shoes, clothes, etc. Was her childhood perfect? No, I'm sure it wasn't. However, it did not sound traumatic or dangerous or even particularly sad, and her self-pity is more than irritating, it's nauseating. If she was still a child, I'd feel sorry for her. Somewhat. Maybe. Because I'm sure it's tough being a kid no matter what your childhood is like and never knowing how attentive her father would be must have been confusing and painful at times. However, as an adult, Ms. Brennan-Jobs need to look around her, maybe pick up one of many other memoirs, and realize that she's not the only one who wasn't happy 100% of the time as a child. She actually had a quite nice childhood for the most part, from my vantage point. In my opinion, Lisa comes across as a poor-me-rich girl. Were her parents perfect? No, but whose parents are? Did they love her? Yes, though I can understand how she would feel unloved at times by her father when she was a child. For that alone I feel compassion for the child she was. However, I just can't take people who want to always make themselves a victim to gain pity and attention. I'm very compassionate, but my empathy wears thin when I feel I'm being manipulated into giving it. That's what I felt from this book, that I was being manipulated.. I also feel like she was simultaneously bragging about her father being Steve Jobs (which, actually, is the only thing in this book that makes her stand out from thousands of other people, the fact that she had a famous and rich father) and about the name brand clothing he bought her (though she also complained that he didn't buy her as many clothes as she'd liked to have had because he was so, so mean to her). Also proof he was a monster -- she sometimes had to babysit her brother AND she had to do the dishes -- by hand !!!! Their dishwasher was broken and she had to do the dishes. By hand. Poor, poor girl. Wow. I was flummoxed when I read that! I suppose with everything up to that point, it shouldn't have shocked me, but it did. Another instance of her whining that made my jaw drop open, was that when she visited her mother, her father wouldn't drive her --- it was 4 blocks away and she was a teenager! Lisa comes across as very selfish and self-centred, very full of herself, and possessing an extreme sense of entitlement. She really does need to look around and see what many people around the world suffer on a daily basis. She could start by reading any number of memoirs, or even just watching the news. I find it abhorrent that she expects people to feel sorry for her when many people would gladly fill her shoes, and she is totally ignorant of that fact. Maybe some people will enjoy this book; as I said above, it is written very well, though there is not much remarkable in it and it is monotonous in places. She writes well and for that alone I give this 2 stars. Otherwise it would have gone on the abandoned shelf. "It was hard to understand why someone who had enough money would create a sense of scarcity, why he wouldn't lavish us with it." And that, my friends, seems to be the issue.... she didn't get as much as she wanted growing up or as an adult. I can't help but being left with the feeling that she's unhappy with the multi-millions he left her, thinking she deserved more, and this book is her middle finger thrust at his grave. Grow up, Lisa.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    I have a bit of a fascination with Steve Jobs. I worked for a company that was one of the first to attempt to adopt his innovative NeXT computer system in the early 90’s after he left Apple. Like other companies, we had to abandon it because it was highly proprietary and no other software would work with it. Shortly thereafter, I ran into him at the remote Hawaiian resort he favored (no TVs, no phones, very isolated) and was struck by his markedly furtive behavior and the sharp, hostile glare I I have a bit of a fascination with Steve Jobs. I worked for a company that was one of the first to attempt to adopt his innovative NeXT computer system in the early 90’s after he left Apple. Like other companies, we had to abandon it because it was highly proprietary and no other software would work with it. Shortly thereafter, I ran into him at the remote Hawaiian resort he favored (no TVs, no phones, very isolated) and was struck by his markedly furtive behavior and the sharp, hostile glare I got when he realized I had recognized him. I didn’t approach or speak to him and sure as heck would never have revealed that I worked for the company that recently dumped him, having heard about his tantrums. I have read almost everything I can get my hands on about him, so obviously, I had to read this autobiography by his oldest daughter, Lisa. If you know even the slightest bit about Steve Jobs, you know he was a bit of an asshole. Odd. Exacting. Uncompromising. Blunt. Fastidious. Asocial. Now imagine him as a parent. An unwilling parent. Lisa Brennan-Jobs is happy to describe that experience for you. She is the daughter of Jobs and his high school girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan. Jobs from the beginning denied Lisa was his child when she clearly was. Even after genetic testing, he still protested. Lisa details her childhood through adulthood, caught between her hippie, emotionally unstable mother and the remote, casually cruel Jobs. It’s quite a story. None of them, including the manipulative Lisa, come off very well. Re Jobs - it’s almost as if he was an empty vessel or an alien trying to impersonate a human being without any real understanding of what it means to be human. As brilliant as he was (and he was!), he was a terrible “human.” This is Lisa’s story, so it’s about her life growing up and reveals Jobs from her viewpoint as his daughter. If you want to know more about Steve Jobs, I highly recommend Walter Isaacson’s exceptional biography “Steve Jobs.” I would read that first, then Lisa’s story as it gives you a better background on the enigma that was Jobs.

  6. 5 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    A Land Apart What a Jerk. Steve Jobs was clearly in that elite group of psychos which includes Trump, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk. Bullies, liars, pathologically egocentric, litigious bastards one and all. And any taste they have is restricted to their mouths. Whether or not the world at large is a better place because of Steve Jobs is open to debate. But the immediate world of those around him was hell. Dumps his first partner (actually she dumps him); denies paternity of the child; pays peanuts in A Land Apart What a Jerk. Steve Jobs was clearly in that elite group of psychos which includes Trump, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk. Bullies, liars, pathologically egocentric, litigious bastards one and all. And any taste they have is restricted to their mouths. Whether or not the world at large is a better place because of Steve Jobs is open to debate. But the immediate world of those around him was hell. Dumps his first partner (actually she dumps him); denies paternity of the child; pays peanuts in child support; apparently stays in contact mainly to gloat. You get the picture. No doubt the house cleaner/aspiring painter ex is more than a bit flakey. And the child didn’t benefit much from her mother’s ineptness with relationships and employment. Stability was not a virtue the little duo was blessed with. But hey you’d think after his first few hundred million bucks Jobs might have settled them in someplace cozy. Not a chance. Although to be fair, he did help with the rent. As we all know California is a place and a society apart. Perhaps it always has been since the time when the first inhabitants trailed in from Asia. It seems to me that this myopic biography is as much about the strangeness of California as a culture as it is about what is really only a footnote in Jobs’s life. It’s context to that life rather than content. The genre to which this book could be assigned is something like Detritus of the Rich and Famous - a melange of random memoir, light gossip, and relational failure. Marginally interesting for the enthusiast but hardly more revelatory than what’s already available about a seriously neurotic and seriously distasteful Titan of business.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Leslynn

    Copy courtesy of NetGalley So, this book....... it's one of those which elicit strong emotions in a reader, especially a parent. There are times when you wonder why these people were allowed to be parents, why no-one smacked some sense into Steve & whateverthemothersnamewas, how did this child evolve into a somewhat coherent individual? Proof that: - intellect does not ensure good parenting (or even a mediocre attempt at it) - fame & money clearly does not make you happy - whateverthemothers Copy courtesy of NetGalley So, this book....... it's one of those which elicit strong emotions in a reader, especially a parent. There are times when you wonder why these people were allowed to be parents, why no-one smacked some sense into Steve & whateverthemothersnamewas, how did this child evolve into a somewhat coherent individual? Proof that: - intellect does not ensure good parenting (or even a mediocre attempt at it) - fame & money clearly does not make you happy - whateverthemothersnamewas was a selfish, brutish individual who should have made better life choices - that children defy, even after death - even when surrounded by people, you can be alone. A well-written memoir, which is worth reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

    Lisa Brennan-Jobs new memoir, Small Fry, is searing in a Mommy Dearest expose` way, with me exclaiming and throwing the book down on at least three occasions, with a, “He did what?!”. And that’s saying something for a former high school counselor, who’d thought I had hardened to any shock at inconsistent parenting and emotional abuse. So let me tell you, Steve Jobs takes the Apple cake. But instead, pick up a copy of Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book and let her tell you in her very rational, yet compellin Lisa Brennan-Jobs new memoir, Small Fry, is searing in a Mommy Dearest expose` way, with me exclaiming and throwing the book down on at least three occasions, with a, “He did what?!”. And that’s saying something for a former high school counselor, who’d thought I had hardened to any shock at inconsistent parenting and emotional abuse. So let me tell you, Steve Jobs takes the Apple cake. But instead, pick up a copy of Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book and let her tell you in her very rational, yet compelling writer’s voice.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    The headline of the NYT review referred to Steve Jobs as a "terrible dad" but the book is so much more than a smear of Jobs as a parent or human. He was, most certainly a difficult, deeply flawed human but in her beautiful memoir, Lisa Brennan-Jobs is graceful, not bitter. She reveals the wounds inflicted by both parents and her longing to belong in her two families, in school, and in a world she was too young to understand. Any child of divorced parents will recognize her complex and confusing The headline of the NYT review referred to Steve Jobs as a "terrible dad" but the book is so much more than a smear of Jobs as a parent or human. He was, most certainly a difficult, deeply flawed human but in her beautiful memoir, Lisa Brennan-Jobs is graceful, not bitter. She reveals the wounds inflicted by both parents and her longing to belong in her two families, in school, and in a world she was too young to understand. Any child of divorced parents will recognize her complex and confusing emotions. Readers who have loved a visionary driven to create or change the world will keenly understand her roller coaster ride, tremendous pride in the achievements of the one you love, alternating with frustration that even though they give so much to the world they are often incapable of being present for the family. Every parent who has the courage to honestly acknowledge their own flaws, successes, and failures will have at least a little empathy for Jobs and Lisa's mother, Chrisann. Finally, anyone who lived in Palo Alto in the 80's and 90's will enjoy the references to the town when it was quirkier and, IMO, more interesting than it is today. The description of The Good Earth may have been worth the price of the book. This is a moving coming-of-age story more than a goldmine for Steve Jobs fanboys or those who want to scorn the rich and famous. I loved it and am giving to my daughter.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mary Deacon

    This is memoir by Steve Job's daughter. She talks about growing up in California and what it was like growing up the daughter of the Apple founder. I would definitely recommend this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    librarianka

    This is a very well written and a very interesting memoir about the complex, distant father that Steve Jobs was to Lisa Brennan. The book joins its great predecessors such as the Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover or We are all shipwrecks: a memoir by Kelly Grey Carlisle that are non-fiction books that read like fiction. All the parts that make a great and compelling read are in place: an unusual and intriguing story, very high quality of writing and editing, maturity of the author able to tran This is a very well written and a very interesting memoir about the complex, distant father that Steve Jobs was to Lisa Brennan. The book joins its great predecessors such as the Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover or We are all shipwrecks: a memoir by Kelly Grey Carlisle that are non-fiction books that read like fiction. All the parts that make a great and compelling read are in place: an unusual and intriguing story, very high quality of writing and editing, maturity of the author able to transcend her experience and personal suffering and able to present an analytical, well-balanced piece of writing that is completely gripping. We cannot avoid rooting for the protagonist of this story and we get the satisfaction by observing how in spite of great adversity, she grows, matures, comes into her own. Lisa Brennan gives justice to the complexity of her father and presents a portrait that is far from simplistic and at the same time very vivid, clear and oddly in accordance with his own rules of esthetics: sparse and minimalistic, devoid of sentimentality. The subject matter of the story, the distant, at times cruel or even malicious father and the daughter who keeps seeking his approval, acceptance, admiration, love and who is denied this love by the parent, will resonate with many readers. The act of describing of the process of her coming into her own and moving beyond the negative formative experiences and its product - the book offers hope and might be as therapeutic to readers as it has been to its writer. As to the question posed many times: was Lisa, the first computer, named after the daughter of Steve Jobs? Yes and no. Watch 2015 documentary Steve Jobs the Man in the Machine to find out. Excellent and highly recommended book that could be material for a new film all together.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I also grew up in Palo Alto at the same time so many of the places and references were violently real to me. Dragers? Check. Zohar? Check. The Good Earth? Check. That Whole Foods downtown? I can picture that place as if it were yesterday. It was kind of ratty in the old days. I'm sure it's supremely well-lit now. This book was a bit heart-breaking. I have a lot of sympathy for the author as she describes how she yearns to be more part of her father's new family, yet never will be.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. This was pretty bland and boring. I wouldn't recommend this with so many other great memoirs out there

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael Scott

    Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs is an autobiography presented as a coming-of-age story written for the target-audience of Steve Jobs fans and people interested in the myth surrounding the Apple creator who died not long ago. Overall, a good story, but with flaws, not enough about Steve Jobs to matter generally, and not enough alignment of values with the lead character to matter for me. The writing is nice and flowing (except for the big gap in the maturing years discussed later in this review), Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs is an autobiography presented as a coming-of-age story written for the target-audience of Steve Jobs fans and people interested in the myth surrounding the Apple creator who died not long ago. Overall, a good story, but with flaws, not enough about Steve Jobs to matter generally, and not enough alignment of values with the lead character to matter for me. The writing is nice and flowing (except for the big gap in the maturing years discussed later in this review), with lyric descriptions, vivid dialogue, and good portrayal of the main character. The detail is humane and generally believable, which is particularly important for an autobiography. We learn of a shambolic early life, with plenty of moving around, an unstable mother, and quite a bit of toying around the hippy culture and the occult (palm-reading and totemic sticks spring to mind). We also learn of an inconsistent, unfrequent at first, fluctuating relationship with Steve Jobs. There is a good description of life under the roof of Steve Jobs' family, with strict rules and veganism, surprisingly frequent failure of tech objects, and hardship for a kid trying to get spoiled or at times even acknowledged. There is a passive-aggressive account and a hidden in plain sight accusation of Harvard deciding admissions based on daddy's bank account or global reputation, but this is nothing new. Perhaps one detail is new: recounting the moment where Steve Jobs admits the Lisa computer was named after her (this time, the claim can be confirmed by singer Bono, says the author, although this is a largely inaccessible witness). As an example of good writing, consider: Our time together was not fluid but stuttered forward like a flip book. The lead character, Lisa, gets a largely unkind spotlight. Lisa has many little moments of lapses in judgment and acting out on jealousy, tells the occasional big lie, and engages in thieving. She finds it difficult to accept herself, and develops a habit of playing the emotions of her mother, and of riding the checkbook and the name of her father. She also finds it difficult to accept the rules of the house, or that Steve Jobs insists she develops her own career and earns her own money (Marketable Skills). But she is vivid and visible throughout the book, albeit constantly brooding, which makes her a dramatic and thus memorable character. Perhaps the best compliment is that you could like this book even as fiction. But there are also significant downsides, which derive from this being an autobiography of a person we assume lived near Steve Jobs. (A personal downside is that I could not find myself sharing the values of the main character, but this may not be an issue for others.) The overall story includes little characterization of people other than Lisa. Even then, the characterization occurs dynamically, through the eyes of the main character, with very little analysis. Thus, we learn next to nothing about Steve Jobs other than girl-Lis' idolized him and hated him at the same time, and then from suddenly mature Lisa that he never loved her and tried to take revenge on her for not adhering to his rules. The mother figure is at best pitied, at worst declared incompetent and also hated, albeit, with regret and turns. Laurene seems for a second to act as replacement-monther, and appears in a few moments of genuine support for young Lisa, but then is heard by Lisa declaring to a therapist she's a cold person and from then-on disappears from discussion despite the key role she must have played in the last days of Steve Jobs. The super-friendly neighbors who save Lisa's career by advancing her the money to do part of a year at Harvard and then a full year at the prestigious research university King's College in London, UK, receive a couple of neutral sounding lines, and we get very little sense of personality and only a rushed explanation of their seemimgly complex motivation for supporting her. The other characters remain obscure. Similarly, there is insufficient description of places outside the places connected to her mother or Steve Jobs. There is little about living with the neighbors, and little about living at Harvard or King's College in London. If you want to care deeply about the main character, you are left with a large gap about these places, and the three to four years they represent. Worse, this leavea the coming-of-age story incomplete, because we lack the transition between girl-Lis' and mature-Lisa. The key issue of inheritance. Jobs is quoted: “You’re not getting anything,” he said. “You understand? Nothing. You’re getting nothing.” And Lisa is clearly hoping to get at least a comfortable life, if not rich, consequence of Steve Jobs' wealth. Yet the subject is not further elaborated, and it remains unclear what she inherited, other than his name and a prestigious education. The book generally presents Steve Jobs with a toned down but unmistakably passive-aggressive style. Whether Lisa's views on this topic are constantly kept in check to level the highs and the lows, or the book has been carefully scrubbed, (or there is another reason,) the result includes many small moments of adoration and elation (about as much as I'd expect from buying your 6th Apple iPhone or your second pair of identical jeans), and a few more moments of little pettiness (about as much as you'd say to the kids who stepped on one of your shrubs). This does not match the young age of the character presenting them. There is also the occasional more serious material, but never aimed at a significant protagonist. For example, the author claims that her mother hears that the gardner was a child-molester; the neighbors enter the Jobs residence to help her move out, without asking for permission from the owner; and it is also the neighbors who say Steve Jobs is neglecting her; etc. The story includes key moments that reduce the credibility of the message or suspend the immersion of the reader. For example, there are moments of raw emotion interrupted by calculated observations on insignificant technical detail, e.g., "I was what she said I was, the kind of person who left the people they loved. I kept looking back." (powerful expression of guilt for leaving her mother), then immediately "In between looks I stepped carefully to avoid the hard fruits from the sweet gums. The trees were fiery orange and red, with star-shaped leaves" (careful and objective assessment of the surrounding, with a tinge of the naturalist lyricism). As another example, in a scene the writing mixes the young girl sense of wonderment and naive words, with the crisp analysis or pompous words of a mature person (e.g., "the house was Spanish-style, white stucco"); the result is uneven and suspends the immersion. Several key moments require full trust in the story. For example, it seems less credible than it could the claim of confession and expressions of being sorry attributed to Steve Jobs, or that Steven Jobs makes good and pays back every cent spent by his neighbors to keep Lisa in school during the times Steve has reneged on her, or the little mischief in which Laurene raises her eyebrows to Lisa behind Steve's back to confirm he was a bad kisser (loc. 2901 of 5133). It is also convenient, and thus raising a credibility issue, to blame it exclusively on the neighbors for not attending her graduation ceremony in London; there is only a perfunctory explanation that they were upset with Steve Jobs' presence, but no phone call to understand their voice directly, no analysis as for many other important moments in the book, and no discussion about what happened between Steve Jobs and them when and since they took in Lisa and thus spirited her away from under her spell. In the end, Lisa says Steve Jobs never loved her. But she also says love has no practical definition, and her life is factually rich for having been his daughter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This book was horribly boring and I question why Brennan-Jobs story is one that needed to be memorialized, other than for the fact her father is Steve Jobs and that he was a bit of an asshole. Do not get the hype at all.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Meggan

    This book really makes you understand that people are complicated. Just because they are famous, or intelligent, etc., doesn't mean that success is going to translate into all aspects of their lives.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ginger Bensman

    Small Fry is the story of a child longing to belong, a child constantly vigilant, looking to discern from the adults in her life what she needs to be and do, to be seen and valued and loved. And getting the signals right is no small task when both her parents are (emotionally) children, still desperately searching to find love and security and the missing pieces of themselves. Her father’s outsized success, casual cruelty, and warped understanding about what it is to be a parent, lead to sharply Small Fry is the story of a child longing to belong, a child constantly vigilant, looking to discern from the adults in her life what she needs to be and do, to be seen and valued and loved. And getting the signals right is no small task when both her parents are (emotionally) children, still desperately searching to find love and security and the missing pieces of themselves. Her father’s outsized success, casual cruelty, and warped understanding about what it is to be a parent, lead to sharply painful scenes, but there are luminous moments too, when he almost gets it right. This is a beautifully written memoir—sweet and sad and ultimately uplifting.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    DNF @ 25%

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cherise Wolas

    This is an intriguing coming-of-age/family story, but I disagree with the reviewers who believe that the fact that the father in question was Steve Jobs is irrelevant. It's what makes this book especially interesting. For all his brilliance and on-and-off charisma, he was cold and sanctimonious, withholding, profoundly awkward and, at times, wildly inappropriate. And saw exactly how his life would unfold, and it unfolded that way. Does brilliance excuse coldness, meanness, cheapness? Written fro This is an intriguing coming-of-age/family story, but I disagree with the reviewers who believe that the fact that the father in question was Steve Jobs is irrelevant. It's what makes this book especially interesting. For all his brilliance and on-and-off charisma, he was cold and sanctimonious, withholding, profoundly awkward and, at times, wildly inappropriate. And saw exactly how his life would unfold, and it unfolded that way. Does brilliance excuse coldness, meanness, cheapness? Written from a child-to-teen perspective - desperate to be loved by her father, to become part of his family, it is beautifully honest. Many writers have written novels on this topic, so the identity of this particular father makes it stand out. We imagine families with great wealth, with brilliance at the core, living shimmering lives, and it's not true here. That the author made it through is a testament, and for me, her mother is a true heroine.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hibah Kamal-Grayson

    3.5 stars. Fairly well-written and interesting, but I'm rounding down based on the wave of relief I felt upon parting ways with the narrator. It's hard to chronicle meanness without letting it infect you, and I kept detecting a faint trace of Steve Jobs's selfish cunning in the narrator herself: in her prose, her inner life, and even her actions. The narrative arc -- wobbly throughout the book -- sort of collapses at the end. I felt as though the author tried to quickly and clumsily stitch togeth 3.5 stars. Fairly well-written and interesting, but I'm rounding down based on the wave of relief I felt upon parting ways with the narrator. It's hard to chronicle meanness without letting it infect you, and I kept detecting a faint trace of Steve Jobs's selfish cunning in the narrator herself: in her prose, her inner life, and even her actions. The narrative arc -- wobbly throughout the book -- sort of collapses at the end. I felt as though the author tried to quickly and clumsily stitch together two diverging narratives with wildly different assessments of her father's character. I don't ask that narratives be tied up neatly with a bow. (And in fact, the confusion around her father's fundamental character is pretty telling in and of itself.) But this book left a bitter taste in my mouth, as if unkindness and cunning beget unkindness and cunning, instead of occasionally begetting warmth, kindness, and growth.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Levy

    3.5 Stars Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and artist Chrisann Brennan, was born when her unmarried parents were young. Publicly, Steve Jobs denied his paternity until a DNA test proved otherwise. When Lisa was two years old, Jobs was sued for child support since Chrisann was on state support. After resisting for many months, Jobs inexplicably and suddenly agreed to pay $500 a month. Four days later, Apple stock went public and Jobs was worth $200 million. He may ha 3.5 Stars Lisa Brennan-Jobs, daughter of late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and artist Chrisann Brennan, was born when her unmarried parents were young. Publicly, Steve Jobs denied his paternity until a DNA test proved otherwise. When Lisa was two years old, Jobs was sued for child support since Chrisann was on state support. After resisting for many months, Jobs inexplicably and suddenly agreed to pay $500 a month. Four days later, Apple stock went public and Jobs was worth $200 million. He may have been creative and brilliant, but Steve Jobs was not was paternal. In this book, his daughter portrays him as thoughtless, self-absorbed, and immature. Living with her mother was also not easy for Lisa, as they moved 13 times by the time she was seven, and there were many moments where I felt her mother was not much of a parent herself. Chrisann frustrated me as much as Jobs did when it came to parenting Lisa, and I disrespected her attitude that money from Jobs should be continuously flowing to her while she did little to better life for herself and her daughter. Though Steve and Chrisann never married, they were always in one another’s lives. This aspect in itself was a fascinating part of the book for me. When Lisa was 13, her father married and started a family and Lisa lived with them for some time. Eventually, Lisa and her father became estranged. Oddly, when she went away to college against his wishes, he actually financed her studies. When Steve Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this brought about reconciliation for them both. The daughter of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs writes an emotional story of family dysfunction in such a way that it almost seems normal for them.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) What was it like to have Steve Jobs as your dad? That question has already drawn many to Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s debut memoir. You don’t need to have any particular interest in Apple computers or in technology in general to read and enjoy this; all you need is curiosity about how families work, especially amid complications like disputed paternity, half-siblings, and the peculiarities of behaviour common to geniuses and madmen. Apart from brief flashbacks to her earliest years and a few scenes (3.5) What was it like to have Steve Jobs as your dad? That question has already drawn many to Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s debut memoir. You don’t need to have any particular interest in Apple computers or in technology in general to read and enjoy this; all you need is curiosity about how families work, especially amid complications like disputed paternity, half-siblings, and the peculiarities of behaviour common to geniuses and madmen. Apart from brief flashbacks to her earliest years and a few scenes surrounding her father’s death, Brennan-Jobs focuses on her life between ages seven and 18, as she bounced between her parents and tried desperately to secure her aloof father’s love and approval. From the start, Jobs distanced himself from Lisa, even refusing to acknowledge her as his child until a DNA test proved it. So she lived with her mother, Chrisann Brennan, an artist who worked multiple jobs but still struggled to make ends meet. Though it also played out in the Silicon Valley of California, this hardscrabble mother-and-daughter life couldn’t have been more different from the opulent lifestyle Lisa glimpsed when she stayed at her father’s mansions. Jobs’s behaviour was contradictory and unpredictable. Sometimes he went out of his way to help Lisa, like when he wrote a fulsome recommendation to get her into a desirable school. But more often he treated her with disdain. When she lived with him and his wife Laurene, he refused to fix the heating in Lisa’s room and relied on her for free babysitting after her half-siblings were born. He asked her inappropriately sexual questions as she became a teenager. Lisa always felt she had to earn her father’s love. His all-or-nothing outlook was meant to induce guilt: Unless she missed school for a week to go to Hawaii with him and Laurene, she wasn’t really part of their family; if she went back to her mother, she was out of the family. Of course, Lisa wasn’t the only victim of Jobs’s wanton cruelty. Woe to any waitress who got his order wrong! But there’s something especially heartbreaking about a little girl reaching out for proof that her father loves her, only to be rejected. One telling example concerns the early Apple model called “Lisa.” As a child, when she asked multiple times if he’d named the computer after her, he said no. Only late in his life – when asked by Bono, no less – did Jobs finally admit in her hearing that the Lisa was indeed named for her. “We all made allowances for his eccentricities, the ways he attacked other people, because he was also brilliant, and sometimes kind and insightful,” she writes. Yet “I felt he’d crush me if I let him.” I was impressed by the volume and texture of the memories here. The dialogue must all be invented, but the sheer number of scenes and the detail in which Brennan-Jobs remembers them are astonishing. It would take me many hours of concentration to remember even a handful of similar scenes from my years in schooling. You get the feeling that the author was fiercely observant. She notes that very quality in herself at one point: “I was not only in this pitiable situation, but watching it; I was both the one hurt and the narrator of the hurt.” Brennan-Jobs’s recreation of her child and teenage perspective is generally convincing, and she uses apt everyday metaphors to describe her relationships: “my father far away, glinting like a shard of mirror; my mother so close and urgent” and “an unmistakable emptiness I felt near him, a feeling of a vast loneliness—the stair behind the kitchen with no light, the wind coming through from the rickety balcony.” In the end, there are perhaps no great revelations or transformations in the book; it is simply a record of life through one person’s eyes, and thus it’s not surprising that other members of the family have disputed her version of events. A memoir is pure subjectivity, but as you are reading – if it’s written as well as this one – you can’t help but go along with every word. I would be interested to read a biography of Jobs to see how the picture of him compares, but mostly I valued Small Fry as an illuminating account of a difficult father–daughter relationship, no matter who or how famous its subject. Originally published at Nudge.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Guys, you don't have to read this book. Utter crap. This book is only relevant for people obsessed with Apple and Steve Jobs like he's some kind of genius or a god. Lisa is a very minor story in his life and this novel reads as such. I mean no wants to read about ordinary things done by ordinary people like a journal entry sans critical reflection. Like, my mother bought a car, we called Steve to pay the bill. I mean, just no. There's a lot of sentences like this, we called him up to ask for ren Guys, you don't have to read this book. Utter crap. This book is only relevant for people obsessed with Apple and Steve Jobs like he's some kind of genius or a god. Lisa is a very minor story in his life and this novel reads as such. I mean no wants to read about ordinary things done by ordinary people like a journal entry sans critical reflection. Like, my mother bought a car, we called Steve to pay the bill. I mean, just no. There's a lot of sentences like this, we called him up to ask for rent, we called him up to get his sofa....come on! Read the last two chapters or so and that's enough. I'll even make it easy for you - here's the Vanity Fair link of a chapter: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/.... You're welcome. Yes, this was a very cleaned up memoir of Steve Jobs (I say this kindly because you are reading this because of him and NOT Lisa a really minor player in the Apple world!), too clean when in fact, he was an abusive asshole to her as a child up until his death. It was unclear to me what she wanted, to be loved by an abusive person, or to resolve to get away from obviously a hot-cold parent. Come on girl, stand up! Steve didn't even pay a lot of her tuition fee in Harvard (she got in because she dropped the name OMFG). Lisa was taken in by kind neighbors who put her through school and housed her for several years and she didn't even invite them to her graduation because Steve was invited. What?! Who are these people? As you can see, the money and the Jobs name is obviously the path to wealth and fame, and I wouldn't mind if she chose that. She should cry it out over the rooftops. I just wanted her to be honest upfront. Not sanitize it. I want to hear if she grappled with it. But no. Not a peep. It is like the narrator is an outsider looking in and it reads as such. We moved here, my mom painted in a school... If a parent never really loved you and is psychologically abusive("come to the circus with us or else, you can just pack up and leave the house...") why stick to him (aside from the money)? Why append a last name that doesn't mean anything except being unloved? I really would not begrudge her for doing so, in fact, I would respect her for that, after all, she is entitled to it as his kid. She should fight for it. But you don't read that. I actually wish she got a portion of his estate as the ultimate third finger but NO this is not that kind of factual story. No figures or anything, completely rambling journal accounts. This clean account sounds like a dishonest shill. If you want to find a resolution that he may not be a crappy human being to absolve you of his meanness in life, sure, you might find it in the pages. The only good part was the conversation with Jobs at his deathbed. Even then, the stepmom goes to say, I don't believe in deathbed ramblings. What?! Who are these crappy human beings and why is she STILL around them? What I wanted to hear and read is if she has really moved on out of the clutches of his meanness, etc. You don't read that. Why? So where's the closure here. Jeez, appending his name to hers. Is that it? If you want a dramatic memoir with all the angst and resolution, just read Cheryl Strayed's Wild, by god, that's some M*F*ng writing and a stupendous life redemption.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Riva Sciuto

    "For a long time I hoped that if I played one role, my father would take the corresponding role. I would be the beloved daughter; he would be the indulgent father. I decided that if I acted like other daughters did, he would join in the lark. We’d pretend together, and in pretending we’d make it real. If I had observed him as he was, or admitted to myself what I saw, I would have known that he would not do this, and that a game of pretend would disgust him." *** I LOVED this memoir. I found mysel "For a long time I hoped that if I played one role, my father would take the corresponding role. I would be the beloved daughter; he would be the indulgent father. I decided that if I acted like other daughters did, he would join in the lark. We’d pretend together, and in pretending we’d make it real. If I had observed him as he was, or admitted to myself what I saw, I would have known that he would not do this, and that a game of pretend would disgust him." *** I LOVED this memoir. I found myself fascinated by the Steve Jobs that existed on the periphery of his Silicon Valley fame. While the public has been introduced to a tremendous amount about the tech giant since his death in 2011, never before have we read about him from his daughter's perspective. The pages of this book are rich with the emotion, confusion, and pain of a woman who had a tumultuous relationship with her dad. Her candor is painful to read at times, but refreshing in its openness; it reveals how much of her life was shaped by the mercurial man she knew as her father and whom the world knew as the man behind the Apple computer. While Lisa Brennan-Jobs's memoir has been publicly denounced by her own family, it's clear she sought to write this book as a kind of catharsis. As an attempt to make sense of the relationship she had with her dad. As an effort to piece together the things she couldn't understand as a child but on which she has gained more clarity in the aftermath of her father's death. Brennan-Jobs fills the book with lines like these: "I see now that we were at cross-purposes. For him, I was a blot on a spectacular ascent, as our story did not fit with the narrative of greatness and virtue he might have wanted for himself. My existence ruined his streak. For me, it was the opposite: the closer I was to him, the less I would feel ashamed; he was part of the world, and he would accelerate me into the light." She takes us on her own turbulent journey with her dad, from the time he denied his paternity until their reconciliation in the memorable moments that preceded his death. And this journey is an emotional one: we (literally) feel her pain as she desperately tries to make her dad proud, as she attempts to forge any kind of connection with him, as she navigates the frequent landmines of his emotional instability. For years she suffers the pain of being deemed "Daddy's mistake" by her half siblings, of her father's refusal to associate the "Lisa" computer with her, of his repeated denigration of her as a subpar member of the family. So often memoirs written about someone who has died provide overly glorified accounts of their lives. But this one is an exception. This is an honest and real account of a daughter's relationship with her father. I appreciated so many things about Lisa Brennan-Jobs's account of this relationship, but most of all, I love her reflection on the importance of time. Despite Steve Jobs's myriad shortcomings, his daughter ultimately forgave him, and wished that they could reclaim the time they never had together. After all, time is the one thing we can never get back. Four stars! Vanity Fair excerpt: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/....

  25. 5 out of 5

    Julie Garner

    I received an advanced reading copy of this book. Interesting memoir from the daughter Steve Jobs. It is a moving story if a young girl absolutely desperate for love from her family and at times finding it extremely hard to get that from either parent. Right from the word go, her father denies her. From a young and naive age it seems to me that Lisa became a parent to her mother and tried so hard not to be a stranger to her father. So many times when I was reading this book I found myself getting I received an advanced reading copy of this book. Interesting memoir from the daughter Steve Jobs. It is a moving story if a young girl absolutely desperate for love from her family and at times finding it extremely hard to get that from either parent. Right from the word go, her father denies her. From a young and naive age it seems to me that Lisa became a parent to her mother and tried so hard not to be a stranger to her father. So many times when I was reading this book I found myself getting angry with both parents. That was not the way you treat a child! Either of you! Obviously this is seen through Lisa's eyes but man, do you feel for this kid. I found it extremely fascinating that she offered such a personal insight into Jobs. It was completely different to how I imagined him to be. That said, all his faults make sense. Not that I calmly agree with them. I will admit I found the writing still a little disjointed but it was fairly easy to pull back to the point you were at after the distraction. Good alternative biography about Steve Jobs for fans of Isaacson but if you are looking for something to fangirl about him, this is not for you.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Despite the buzz around this book because her father was famous, Lisa’s story is essentially about a sensitive girl who feels isolated, as if she never fits in anywhere—like the ugly duckling in the fairy tale. Of course, she tells us the story everyone’s heard: Lisa’s parents were in their early 20’s when her mom got pregnant. Her father continued to deny paternity until the state of California demanded a paternity test, as it did for clients receiving welfare benefits. He then grudgingly paid Despite the buzz around this book because her father was famous, Lisa’s story is essentially about a sensitive girl who feels isolated, as if she never fits in anywhere—like the ugly duckling in the fairy tale. Of course, she tells us the story everyone’s heard: Lisa’s parents were in their early 20’s when her mom got pregnant. Her father continued to deny paternity until the state of California demanded a paternity test, as it did for clients receiving welfare benefits. He then grudgingly paid child support. But this is more Lisa’s coming of age story, caught between a mother who is mostly her best friend and protector, with the occasional ”you ruined my life” thrown in, and a father who makes her feel perpetually off-balance as he doles out affection sparingly, if at all. This book stands on its own as Lisa tells her story of growing up in the eighties and nineties in a dysfunctional California family--her story is universal enough to transcend the famous father. Brennan-Jobs is a compelling writer, and it seemed that by the end of her book that the “ugly duckling” outsider has finally found her place as a swan.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Miller

    I received an advanced reading copy of this book. Memoirs by women are my favorite genre, and this one is a new favorite. I didn't expect it to be the page-turner it was; Brennan-Jobs is a fantastic writer and her coming-of-age story about her relationship with her unpredictable father is compelling. The setting- California in the 80's- was brought alive for me as well.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Lisa Brennan-Jobs is the oldest child of Steve Jobs. She is also the child he, for many years, refused to recognize as his daughter. As she grew older, Steve became more attentive towards her and invited her to live with him. In this honest and intimate memoir, Lisa details her early life shuttling between two unstable parents. Lisa’s birth mother struggled to support herself and became increasingly resentful of their situation. Steve’s erratic and eccentric behavior and mean spiritedness caused Lisa Brennan-Jobs is the oldest child of Steve Jobs. She is also the child he, for many years, refused to recognize as his daughter. As she grew older, Steve became more attentive towards her and invited her to live with him. In this honest and intimate memoir, Lisa details her early life shuttling between two unstable parents. Lisa’s birth mother struggled to support herself and became increasingly resentful of their situation. Steve’s erratic and eccentric behavior and mean spiritedness caused Lisa to feel unloved and unwanted. He was abusive both verbally and mentally. On the occasions when he was kind, Lisa hoped that she could finally become part of his family and be accepted and loved, only to experience disappointment. Steve’s wife wasn’t unkind but she was indifferent to Lisa. It is a testament to Lisa’s intelligence, inner strength and her determination that she was eventually able to leave, graduate from Harvard, and become independent and self-sufficient. Along the way she was helped by neighbors who observed the situation and provided the support she desperately needed. This is a haunting, heartbreaking story of a child’s yearning for acceptance, love, family, and identity that is skillfully presented in a non judgmental way. It deserves all the accolades it has received. Small Fry has been named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, Amazon, GQ, Vogue, Publisher’s Weekly and others. The New York Times and New Yorker have designated it as a Top 10 Book of the Year.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I've read a lot of memoirs written by daughters of Extremely Problematic Men and when you think of (say) Tara Westover's dad as described in her memoir Educated, Steve Jobs doesn't seem all that bad. Steve Jobs was just an asshole. Not a monster. At the beginning of her memoir she doesn't write about him that much, since he was barely present in her life. She writes about the shitty (but a relatively ordinary kind of shitty) childhood she had with her mom in Palo Alto. Because Steve was an asshol I've read a lot of memoirs written by daughters of Extremely Problematic Men and when you think of (say) Tara Westover's dad as described in her memoir Educated, Steve Jobs doesn't seem all that bad. Steve Jobs was just an asshole. Not a monster. At the beginning of her memoir she doesn't write about him that much, since he was barely present in her life. She writes about the shitty (but a relatively ordinary kind of shitty) childhood she had with her mom in Palo Alto. Because Steve was an asshole, the pair had no money. She was on welfare, they moved a lot, and her mom was so stressed out she became emotionally unstable. She yelled and said things she should not have to Lisa: this will happen when a single parent is struggling, alone, and poor. When Lisa is in her teens, her father becomes part of her life. This happens for two reasons, neither of which says anything good about Steve Jobs. First, her fights with her mother were so bad that the school threatened to call social services unless her father took her in. Second, he clearly was willing to take her in so she could become his son's nanny. As soon as Lisa said that Jobs' wife Laureen had become pregnant, I thought, "Look out, he's going to use her as unpaid help." And sure enough, that's what he did. Any time she protested or tried to have a life of her own, he threatened to kick her out of the family. "If you want to be part of this family you will have to try harder," he said, which was clear emotional blackmail. This man, who could have afforded a babysitter and a new dishwasher, forced her to be his babysitter and forced her to hand-wash all the dishes rather than replace the broken dishwasher. Again: there are people with much harder stories of suffering in America. Even Lisa acknowledges that her self-pity during this period of life was perhaps excessive, but if the question is "Was Steve Jobs an asshole," the answer is unequivocally YES. It seems clear to me that he resented having this kid in his life, he did not want her, and if the government was going to force him to take care of her (imagine the bad publicity if social services put her in foster care!) he was going to get his money's worth out of her. He did not physically or sexually abuse her, he fed her and kept her clothed, but he was not a good dad. It takes more than the minimum to be a good parent. Lisa describes her life unflinchingly, but with great compassion toward her family. She even describes her own follies with honesty and compassion: almost as if she is describing someone else, a child named "Lisa" who she feels fondly toward even though this child could be a narcissistic brat. Her mom is someone who did her best under difficult circumstances. Her dad is clearly less sympathetic but Lisa is sure to describe good moments, where he behaves like a normal father, in addition to the many many moments where he behaves exactly like the egotistical insecure petty self-aggrandizing wealthy visionary that he was. The women in Lisa's life were generally kind to her, as she describes it, but it seems they could have done more. Mona, Steve Jobs' biological sister (who was raised in a different home, then became close with Steve when they were adults), was very good to Lisa in a lot of ways. Sometimes she advocated for Lisa when her brother was being especially neglectful. But it seemed like she could have done more. For example, when Steve stopped paying for Lisa's college, why did it fall to Steve's neighbors to pick up the slack and pay her tuition? Mona was also famous and wealthy in her own right. Lisa was her niece. Where was she? Laureen, Lisa's step-mom, was not Cinderella-level of wicked but I got the impression from the memoir that she resented Lisa and did as little as possible to help her out. Lisa is indirect about this; the reader is not told Laureen was neglectful, but she is rarely described as being nurturing. One of the most devastating scenes is when Steve and Laureen are brought in to see Lisa's psychiatrist—a man hired explicitly to be Lisa's father-surrogate, incidentally. Teenage Lisa tells them how very lonely she is, how she just wants to be told "good night" on occasion, and how she needs more connection and warmth from this family she's been thrust into. Laureen and Steve sit in stony silence. Lisa cries and tries again. The psychiatrist lets the silence spin out. Finally Laureen says, "We are just cold people," and the session ends. This memoir could have failed at a number of turns. With so many memoirs out there of people surviving child abuse, genocide, sexual slavery, depraved parenting, how can anyone who writes a memoir about a relatively ordinary bummer childhood be expected to garner sympathy? And yet, memoirs aren't, or shouldn't be, sympathy-generators. And sympathy should not be withheld for anyone who hasn't experienced Holocaust-level misery. Ordinary suffering deserves sympathy, too. In this case, Lisa earned mine through her excellent storytelling. She seems to remember what it's like to be a teenager, how all teenagers are self-obsessed and self-pitying ... but also, they retain their childlike wonder even as the scary world begins to reveal just how scary it is. They are in that liminal space before protective cynicism takes root. Little Lisa and teenage Lisa already had the seeds of keen observation that make for future novelists and memoirists: she noticed everything. Adult Lisa is good at describing what little Lisa saw, through her eyes, while revealing to us the adult understanding of it that escaped little Lisa. The scene where a hippie couple forces little Lisa to "nurse" from the woman, a horrifying scene that little Lisa processes as merely "uncomfortable," is a great example of this. California is almost its own character in this memoir, and it does not come across well. California of the 90s seems almost like a parody, like the California of some conservative talk-show host's fever dream. The previous scene I mentioned, with hippies forcing a 7-year-old to "nurse" is extreme but characteristic. California of that era is bursting with ideas and ideologies, many of them bad. Everyone is a fanatic about something. Everyone is an extremist. Steve Jobs is not just a vegan, he's a carrotarian: the man seems to live on carrots. His skin is orange from the amount of carrots he eats. He doesn't avoid meat for ethical reasons, but for "body purity" reasons. Jobs can't do anything halfway. He is not an outlier in this regard, it's part of their Palo Alto culture. One gets the impression Silicon Valley is still like this, that it's baked into its roots. Reflecting another unpleasant aspect of Silicon Valley, Jobs is also shallow, obsessed with physical beauty. Lisa is already in middle school, trying her hardest to be prettier than everyone else since beauty is the only value a woman can have, before her father ever mentions he admires women who are smart as well as pretty. This seems to make a huge difference to Lisa: she flips from being obsessed with boys and clothes to being obsessed with grades. Of course, shallowness does not exist merely on the west coast. When Lisa is in the middle of her Harvard interview, the interviewer is at first bored and rude. Lisa figures she has only a so-so chance of getting in, because her grades are good but not through the roof, same with her SAT scores. So she casually-not-casually mentions that her father is the inventor of a little company called Apple Computers. The interviewer goes white and sprints from the room: Lisa wonders if it's to tell the committee to fish her application out of the trash. In any event, she gets in. But when the checks from Steve Jobs dry up, Harvard tells her she has to drop out: they can't help her with financial aid. Harvard really doesn't come across very well in this, and if anyone wondered if the rich and famous get preference over everyone else (does anyone really wonder this?) here's some evidence. I was glad, in the end, that Lisa got the deathbed apology she'd dreamed of. But it didn't make me like Steve Jobs any better. You shouldn't have to be literally days away from dying before you realize what a colossal asshole you've been. I hope he left Lisa and her mom a decent chunk of change, at least ... but I bet it went to the five bees on Laureen's honey jar.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Linda Lipko

    This is truly is such a great book that writing a review is difficult. Told from the perspective of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, this is the story of her mercurial relationship with her famous father, Steve Jobs. While her father, the creator of the Mac Apple computer, and creative consultant of Pixar movie studios, became a mega millionaire, Lisa and her mother often lived without food and shelter. Roaming from one place to another, their existence was fraught with despair and longing. Originally, when he This is truly is such a great book that writing a review is difficult. Told from the perspective of Lisa Brennan-Jobs, this is the story of her mercurial relationship with her famous father, Steve Jobs. While her father, the creator of the Mac Apple computer, and creative consultant of Pixar movie studios, became a mega millionaire, Lisa and her mother often lived without food and shelter. Roaming from one place to another, their existence was fraught with despair and longing. Originally, when her father discovered her impending birth, he wanted nothing to do with her or her mother. When her mother finally was able to obtain support money, Jobs made sure that his lawyer drew up, and had the papers signed the day before his company went public, thus immediately rendering him a mega millionaire for the rest of his life, while keeping his illegitimate family always on the fringe. Hauntingly beautiful, Lisa tells of the hippie style life her mother and father lived when they met. After years of abandonment, he sporadically showed up at the latest residence her mother could afford and took Lisa with him for short periods of time. As the years progressed, her father decided to invite her to his luxurious mansion in the hills of California. Consistently referring to her as "Lis," his mood swings and temperamental behaviors left Lisa never knowing what way the wind would blow, or what small incidental event provided an opportunity for him to lash out with purposeful hate while spewing vile, exceedingly nasty, diatribe mental comments to any one in his path. Always knowing she was on the outside, while desperately craving his attention, that attention came sporadically, and at times inappropriately crude. As Jobs married and had three other children, the hurt became more extreme, and once she overheard one of her step sisters refer to her in public as "my father's mistake." Job's website mentioned a wife and three children. For all to see, Lisa his first of four, was not included. When Jobs knew he was dying, he verbally tried to assuage his guilt while telling "Lis" that he knew that for many years, he wasn't there for her, and now it was too late. On his death bed he repeatedly told her "I owe you one." Lisa knew "One" would never be enough! Exquisitely written, hauntingly told, this is a compelling story of a brilliant and very emotionally troubled man.

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