Podcast 230: Book Club: Lisa Brennan-Jobs on Growing Up as Steve Jobs’s Daughter in “Small Fry.”

Happier Podcast Book Club

We’ve recently launched our Happier Podcast Book Club, and today we’ll talk about our second choice—the brilliant memoir Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, she’s written for many publications, including The Southwest ReviewThe Massachusetts ReviewVogue, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

The New York Times described Small Fry this way: “In her account of growing up as the daughter of an artist and the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, the author offers an eloquent meditation on being caught between her parents’ two worlds, and struggling with her father’s emotional negligence…Full of uncanny intimacy and a distinctive literary sensibility, the book was one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018.”

We were so pleased to have Lisa in the studio with me here in New York City.

We had a wide-ranging conversation, touching on issues such as: the pressures of having such a famous father; of dealing with two parents who have split up; of having a difficult mother and a difficult father; growing  up in California; on the very condition of childhood.  We  mention the author (a favorite of both of us) Joan Didion, who has written brilliant books such as Slouching Toward Bethlehem and The White Album. Lisa mentioned Aaron Sorkin’s movie Steve Jobs and Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs.

Here’s the passage I read:

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, he would join in the lark. We’d pretend together, and in pretending we’d make it real. But 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.

Listeners asked great questions. One listener asked about Lisa’s relationship with the neighbors Kevin and Dorothy, who played a significant role in her life and education. 

Another asked about Lisa’s response, when her father asked her, that she wasn’t going to write about their relationship.

Lisa mentions the memoir by Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life, and Philip Roth’s Patrimony: A True Story, and I bring up Janet Malcolm’s book The Journalist and the Murderer (though I don’t mention the book by name).

Lisa also explores the role of her aunt, the acclaimed writer Mona Simpson, and her novel A Regular Guy, which was loosely based on their family. I mention Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel American Wife.

Boy, a lot of terrific books came up in this discussion!

We’d still love to hear your impressions and reflections on this terrific memoir, Small Fry. Share your thoughts on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using #happierpodcastbookclub; or drop us an email at podcast@gretchenrubin.com.

Remember: Whenever it is and wherever you are, there’s always a book is waiting for you.


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