How Did I Get Here: A Book Review of Lisa Brennan-Job’s Memoir “Small Fry”

photo by author

Author: Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Publication Date: September 2018
Genre: Autobiography
(Audiobook format)

“What I wanted, what I felt owed, was some clear place in the hierarchy of those he loved.” 

In her well-written memoir, Lisa Brennan-Jobs jobs tells the story of growing up as Apple computer mogul Steve Jobs’ oldest daughter. Hers is a complicated tale of divorce, estrangement, and desperate attempts to gain the affection of an extremely confusing and complicated man — her father.

Brennan-Jobs is an excellent writer. Her prose is descriptive and compelling and draws the reader into a world of her memory. She strings together gorgeous vignettes, bringing her childhood growing up in the Bay area to vivid life. The challenge I found with the book is that Brennan-Jobs’ narrative does not draw the reader forward with much force or interest.

Fans who idolize Steve Jobs, perhaps already knowing that he was kind of jerk, will appreciate this glimpse into his life. For myself, a reader who is interested in memoir more than Macintosh, it was uncomfortable to see the cold, inconsistent relationship he had with his oldest child. Young Lisa’s interactions with her father are harsh and upsetting. The author is clear and concise about the way she hurt her mother trying to win her father’s approval. I admire her honest assessment of the complicated feelings and craving for acceptance and approval that motivated her as a child and teen growing up in such an unstable environment. That way a moody and distant Steve treats his daughter is both terrifying and fascinating, yet there is an overwhelming feeling of Lisa’s ultimate privilege that makes it difficult for the average reader to engage with her struggles.

Many of us have craved better clothes, a nicer car, and more of our parents’ love. The only thing that distinguishes our narrative from Lisa’s is that her father happens to be extremely famous and powerful. But throughout her story, Lisa fails to draw a strong connection between her experience and the experience of the outer world. The human element is overshadowed by the complicated decadence and idiosyncrasies of extreme success and wealth. The most interesting bit of her story some toward the end of her story as she muses on the connection between her father’s genius and his propensity to be cruel and cutting with the slightest provocation:

“When people speak and write about my fatehr;s meanness, they sometimes assume the meanness is linked the genius. That to have one is to get closer to the other. But the way I saw his create was the best part of him: sensitive, collaborative, fun.”

Overall, Small Fry contains some excellent descriptive prose and deserves consideration for that fact alone. Despite the rather flat narrative, the writing is descriptive and engaging. I should add did not like the narration of this audio book version, I felt the narrator had awkward intonation and paused at some strange time in certain sentences and parts of the story putting the emphasis in the wrong place. You may therefore enjoy reading the book more in the paper or eBook format.