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Small Fry
by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Published: 2018-09-04
Hardcover : 400 pages
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A NEW YORK TIMES AND NEW YORKER TOP 10 BOOK OF THE YEAR

“Beautiful, literary, and devastating.”—New York Times Book Review • “Revelatory.”—Entertainment Weekly • “A masterly Silicon Valley gothic.”—Vogue •“Mesmerizing, discomfiting reading… A book of no small ...

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Introduction

NEW YORK TIMES AND NEW YORKER TOP 10 BOOK OF THE YEAR

“Beautiful, literary, and devastating.”—New York Times Book Review • “Revelatory.”—Entertainment Weekly • “A masterly Silicon Valley gothic.”—Vogue •“Mesmerizing, discomfiting reading… A book of no small literary skill.”—New Yorker • “Extraordinary… An aching, exquisitely told story.”—People • “The sleeper critical hit of the season.”—Vulture

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR FOR NPR, AMAZON, GQ, VOGUE (UK), BUSTLE, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, AND INDIGO

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. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is a poignant coming-of-age story from one of our most exciting new literary voices.

Praise for Small Fry

“An intimate, richly drawn portrait… The reader of this exquisite memoir is left with a loving, forgiving remembrance and the lasting impression of a resilient, kindhearted and wise woman who is at peace with her past.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“A heartbreaking memoir, beautifully rendered…It’s a love story for the father that she had, flaws and all… A wise, thoughtful, and ultimately loving portrayal of her father.”—Seattle Times

Editorial Review

An Amazon Best Book of September 2018: When you finish Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ memoir of growing up as the daughter of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, you’ll feel sorry for her – not just because Jobs was a jerk a lot of the time, but because some readers will be too busy rubbernecking at her famous dad to notice what a great writer his daughter is. In Small Fry, Brennan-Jobs moves back and forth in time, balancing her memories of Jobs' often tough treatment of her (denying paternity, denying her adequate financial support, denying her the warmth and attention every child deserves) with his unpredictable moments of openness and generosity.

No wonder Brennan-Jobs is always nervous around her dad, breaking glasses, fluttering her hands: she’s lovesick, and uncertain that her love is requited. “My insides are jumping,” she writes in her high school diary after he unexpectedly seeks her out for time alone together. “When I tell him events, they come alive. When I don’t tell him, they don’t exist.”

In the end, Jobs, so rich and so famous, is just another parent who withholds what his children need to thrive. “How can it look so good but feels so bad?” Brennan-Jobs says of living in his house. Her aunt, the writer Mona Simpson, answers, “What else is money for… if not to make it look good?” This artfully constructed, self-critical memoir feels like so much more than axe-grinding: what does look good is Brennan-Jobs’s future as a writer. —Sarah Harrison Smith, Amazon Book Review

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. How does Steve Jobs come across in his daughter's memoir? What were your expectations of him before you read Small Fry? Were they altered or confirmed after having finished the book?

2. When she was only a little girl, Jobs told his daughter that he hadn't named the Apple Lisa computer after her. As an adult, she writes that he wasn't being cruel but teaching her a lesson—"not to ride on his coattails." What is your take on that episode? Was it a good lesson? How do you think young Lisa might have felt that at the time it took place, as opposed to looking back 30-some years later with the cushion of hindsight? What other incidents does the author point to as examples of Steve Jobs' life lessons?

3. Follow-up to Question 2: The author wants readers to forgive her father—as she herself has. Is it easy for you to do so, to put aside his seeming cruelty? She herself wonders whether she has conveyed his true nature: "Have I failed in fully representing the dearness and the pleasure …of being with him when he was in good form?" What do you think?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: What are the moments in the memoir that capture Jobs when he was in "good form"? Consider the time he showed up unexpectedly in Japan, pulled her out of school, and talked with her about the nature of God and consciousness. "I was afraid of him and, at the same time, I felt a quaking, electric love," she writes. Does that description of Jobs capture his charisma, his "true nature," or warmth?

5. How does Brennan-Jobs portray her mother, Chrisann Brennan? Why did Lisa leave her mother's home to live with her father? How would you have fared as a child or teen under either parent?

6. Once Lisa moved in with him, her father forbade her to see her mother for six months. He objected to her school extracurricular activities, and accused her of not "succeeding as a member of this family." She needed to be around more, he told her, "to put in the time." What do you think of Jobs' criticism?

7. How does Brennan-Jobs herself come across in her memoir? How would you describe her? Do you see her as traumatized? As resilient? As both?

8. What do you think of the neighbors who moved Lisa out of her father's house into their house—and even paid for her to finish her college degree? Were they right to interfere?

9. All of the people Brennan-Jobs writes about in this book are still alive except Steve Jobs, of course. Do some research to find out their various reactions to Small Fry. What do you think, overall, of the author's presentation of her family? What was her motive to write this book? Do you see it as a standard celebrity "tell-all" story? Is it vengeful? Is it putting the record straight? Is it a working out of the author's own identity? How do you see Lisa Brennan-Job's memoir?

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