by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
How do you survive a father who is idolized by the world but only erratically available to you?
Who is one of the wealthiest men in Silicon Valley, yet leaves you and your mother to live on welfare?
Who denies he is your father?
Not easily, according to Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
Her 2018 memoir, Small Fry, is alternately poignant, angering, lyrical and heart-warming.
She spends her early childhood on welfare and her high school years living in the hit-or-miss luxury of her father’s house for six months at a time. Her father develops a computer about the time she is born and names it “Lisa,” then spends much of her life denying that the computer was named for her.
Jobs’ genius, eccentricities, obsessions, whims and contradictions are well-documented by his biographers and the business press. He was also an inept father.
Early in her life, he refused to acknowledge that she was his daughter, despite a positive paternity test and a suit by the State of California to force him to pay child support and reimburse the welfare payments that had made to Brennan up to that point. He agreed to pay $385 a month in child support. Soon after, Apple went public and he became a multimillionaire. He increased his payments to $500 a month.
Brennan-Jobs has a gift for memorable, sensual prose. She describes a walk across her grade school campus writing, “There were cool ribbons of wind inside the warm, dry air. The leaves cracked under my feet . . . ”
Standing outside her mother’s house with Simpson soon after her 12th birthday, Brennan-Jobs observed, “It was evening, the light was yellow, the air quiet without the lawn mowers, leaf blowers and prop planes. Gnats bounced like the surface of carbonated water where the grass met the air.” Later in front of the house, she watched the “tips of grass catching the slanting light and becoming translucent, like backlit straw.”
About the Author: Lisa Brennan-Jobs (1978 – )
Lisa Brennan-Jobs today lives in Brooklyn with her husband, their son and her two stepdaughters. Her husband is a former Microsoft employee who is launching a start-up.
She graduated from Harvard University in 2000. During her college years, she wrote for The Harvard Crimson and studied overseas for a year at King’s College London.
She worked in finance in London and Italy, then design before becoming a freelance writer.
Brennan-Jobs describes her reasons for writing her memoir in an August 2018 New York Times interview with Nellie Bowles, titled “In ‘Small Fry,’ Steve Jobs Comes Across as a Jerk. His Daughter Forgives Him. Should We? Lisa Brennan-Jobs has written a memoir about her famous father. The details are damning, but he doesn’t want them to be.”
The process of the book allowed her to reclaim her experiences with her father from the filters of journalism, fiction and talk shows.