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We know that, legacy-wise, you know almost everything about Steve Jobs.
But we bet that you know almost nothing about him as a father.
If you want to learn – be our guest: we sum up for you a book by one of his children, Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
It is a memoir of her upbringing—and it is fascinating:
Who Should Read “Small Fry”? And Why?
Steve Jobs is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable icons of the computer revolution and the 20th century as a whole. Yet, as it often happens in the case of great men who create history, not much is known about him when it comes to more common, more everyday, and let’s just say, more banal things.
Lisa Brennan-Jobs, one of Steve’s three daughters (and four children in all), tells her story in Small Fry, a book that has surely already piqued the fancy of all those Mac fans out there, and a book that will certainly interest anyone who wants to learn something more about how Steve Jobs was as a father.
Be prepared, however: if you love Jobs, this book may plant a seed of doubt in your heart; and if you hate him—then here you’ll find quite a lot to criticize him about.
About Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Lisa Brennan-Jobs is an American writer, the first (and long-time unacknowledged) child of Steve Jobs.
A Harvard graduate based in Brooklyn, she has written for several newspapers and magazines, including The Harvard Advocate, Vogue, Spiked, The Southwest Review, The Massachusetts Review, and O, The Oprah Magazine
Find out more at https://lisabrennanjobs.net/
“Small Fry PDF Summary”
You know him as the man who brought you Macintosh, Pixar, and the iPod, you know him as the creative genius who started the microchip revolution of the 1970s. But do you know him as a father of four children?
One of them—the first, in fact—Lisa Brennan-Jobs decided to recount to the world her side of the story of Jobs in the tellingly titled memoir, Small Fry.
The title is taken from Shakespeare’s Pericles and refers to the hierarchy of fish: just as is among the people, says one fisherman to another in the plays, “the great ones eat up the little ones” in the sea as well. The former are whales, the latter small fry.
You can guess which one of the two was Steve, and which one Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
Here’s the full explanation why!
Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the Accidental Daughter That Shouldn’t Have Been
In the spring of 1972, in his senior year at Homestead High School in Cupertino, California, Steve Jobs met Chrisann Brennan, a junior. Very soon he won her love, courtesy of Bob Dylan’s “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” and a little assisting on a Claymation she and her friends were working on at the time.
Soon after, Job left for Reed College in Oregon, and by 1973, their relationship was, to use a popular adjective, complicated. “I couldn’t break the connection, and I couldn’t commit,” says Chrisann about that time. “Steve couldn’t either.”
Little by little, the two separated, but they couldn’t break up completely for the next few years. “I had suggested to Steve that we separate,” said Chrisann many years later, “but he told me that he just couldn’t bring himself to say good-bye.”
Their on-again-off-again relationship would eventually result in something neither of them expected: just when they were about to break up, Chrisann found out that she was pregnant.
After finding out the news, Steve’s face turned ugly, and he left the room furious and fuming. It was soon after that he started declining paternity. He wasn’t even present at the birth of Lisa on a friend’s farm in Organ.
When he eventually came a few days later, Steve started telling everyone at the farm that the kid is not his, even though she sure looked like him according to everyone present.
Denying Paternity and Paying $0 for Child Support—Until Apple Goes IPO
Steve continued to deny paternity of Lisa for years, and Chrisann had no choice but to break up with him and raise their daughter alone.
She wanted to become a painter, but there was no time for that: she went on welfare and started earning additional money with waitressing and house cleaning jobs. Steve barely even visited her. Needless to add, he didn’t even bother helping her financially.
Consequently, in 1980, Chrisann sued Steve for not paying child support, and as a result, a DNA paternity test was arranged. The results were conclusive: he was Lisa’s father with 94.4% certainty.
The court of San Mateo—case filed under number 239948—ordered Jobs to cover all welfare back payments (about $6,000) and to pay a monthly allowance of $385 for Lisa, in addition to medical insurance until her 18th birthday.
The case dragged on for months, and then, suddenly, Steve, via his lawyers, offered to start paying $500 per month for Lisa and cover her health insurance until 18, effectively bringing the case to a close in just a few days.
Chrisann didn’t know why he had rushed the case to a conclusion, but she didn’t have to wait long to find out: only four days after it was finalized, on December 12, 1980, Apple went public and overnight my Steve was worth more than two hundred million dollars.
Being the Girl with all the A’s and No Marketable Skills
Chrisann loved Lisa, but, as time passed, she was growing ever more frustrated with her life: while she was struggling to make ends meet, almost friendless and alone, Steve Jobs became TIME’s “Person of the Year,” and the whole world found out that Chrisann was someone who slept around, so their child could always be someone else’s despite the results of the DNA test.
Of course, this reflected on Lisa and, one day, when she was 13 years old, her school had no choice but to call Lisa’s completely disinterested father, Steve, to take her in; otherwise, they said, they would have no option but to call Social Services.
Lisa had always hoped that one day she would be able to live with her famous father and, now, that actually came true.
There was one condition, though: she wasn’t allowed to contact her mother during the following six months.
Lisa agreed to this, as she did to the offer of changing her surname. She didn’t want to hurt her mother, though, so she took both of her parents’ surnames, and became Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
Living with Steve and his new family—his new wife Lauren and their son, Reed—was never the picnic Lisa had hoped her. For example, no matter how much she tried impressing her father—by excelling at school and taking countless extracurricular activities—Steve was never particularly impressed with her.
On the contrary, in fact: he regularly told her that she will probably never amount to anything in her life, even after Lisa eventually got into Harvard.
“The thing is, Lis,” he said to her once, in a slow voice which always meant that he was about to say something incisive and devastating, “you have no marketable skills. Not one.”
Drifting Apart for the Second Time
Though begrudgingly, Steve Jobs agreed to pay for Lisa’s Harvard tuition after she got in. But he hadn’t changed his mind over her future. In fact, he kept making quite cruel jokes about it.
For example, several times, while driving by it with Lauren next to him and Lisa and Reed in the back, he would point in the direction of a squat building with “Ruby’s” marquee on it, and say something along the lines of “That’s where Lis is going to work.”
Years later, Lisa found out that “Ruby’s” was a strip club. She writes in Small Fry:
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.
In other words, Steve Jobs wanted to start a tech revolution and didn’t want to raise a child. When Lisa happened, he decided to ignore the event. And even after he succeeded and was worth millions, Lisa was still a blot on what he believed was an exceptional life.
Possibly to erase the guilt he was secretly feeling, Steve kept saying to Lisa things like “You’re not being part of this family.” Once he said this after Lisa refused to go with the family to a Cirque du Soleil show. What followed was something even stranger: “And if you don’t want to be, then you need to move.”
And just like that, Lisa had no choice but to move.
(The Light at) The End of the Road
Believe it or not, after that Cirque du Soleil event, Steve severed ties with Lisa altogether! He even stopped paying her Harvard tuition.
Fortunately, Steve’s neighbors, the exemplary Kevin and Dorothy, took Lisa under their wings. They not only offered her a place to stay, but Kevin also paid for her final year’s tuition so that she can graduate from Harvard!
Steve Jobs just disappeared: no messages, no phone calls, no responses to any of Lisa’s emails. It went on like that for a while, but then the contact was renewed. After Lisa graduated, Steve paid Kevin for everything he had financed for Lisa.
Years later, Steve Jobs was sick with cancer, and Lisa realized that she was about to lose her father. She visited him often, and he used one of these opportunities to apologize to her for the way he had treated her.
Fortunately, by that time, Lisa could be much surer that he wasn’t lying. In 2005, six years before Jobs succumbed to cancer, they went to visit Bono at his villa.
Bono was interested in finding more about the beginning of Apple. And, then suddenly, he posed a question Lisa had rarely dared to: “So was the Lisa computer named after her?”
“There was a pause,” she writes. “I braced myself—prepared for his answer.” Chrisann had always insisted that the computer was named after her, but both Steve and Lauren denied this.
At Bono’s villa, Steve hesitated for a few moments, looked down at his plate, and then looked back at Bono. “Yeah, it was,” he said.
“I studied my father’s face,” Lisa goes on. “What had changed? Why had he admitted it now, after all these years?”
“That’s the first time he’s said yes,” Lisa told Bono. “Thank you for asking.”
Key Lessons from “Small Fry”
1. Steve Jobs Never Wanted to Admit Paternity of Lisa… Even After a DNA Test
2. Steve Jobs Started Paying Alimony for Lisa Only Because of Apple
3. Apple Lisa Was Named After Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Steve Jobs Never Wanted to Admit Paternity of Lisa… Even After a DNA Test
Steve Jobs didn’t want to have a daughter with Chrisann Brennan, a painter. However, that happened: due to the body of Chrisann rejecting a contraceptive, she got pregnant in 1977 and gave birth to Lisa Brennan-Jobs next year, at 23.
This was not part of Steve Jobs’ plans at the time, which is why he started publicly denying paternity. Because of this, Chrisann ended the relationship with him and started working as a cleaning lady to earn enough money for her and Lisa. Steve Jobs contributed with nothing.
Finally, a DNA paternity test established that he is the father with 94.4% certainty. It didn’t matter: he refused to acknowledge the test, claiming, in a subsequent interview for TIME magazine that “28% of the male population of the United States could be the father.”
Steve Jobs Started Paying Alimony for Lisa Only Because of Apple
Since Jobs was so sure that he wasn’t the father of Lisa, he refused to pay alimony for her. Even more: he claimed that her mother didn’t even want the money but him, as if that is some kind of a monstrous thing.
And then, suddenly, even though Chrisann had asked for $385 a month, Steve Jobs agreed to pay to her $500 a month. Not because of some newfound fatherly feelings. Apple was supposed to go public in four days: little did anyone know that Jobs was about to become a multimillionaire.
Apple Lisa Was Named After Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Despite his public rejection of Lisa, privately, Steve had feelings for her. People said that he carried a picture of her in his wallet. Even more, he named one of the earliest GUI-based computers after her: Apple Lisa.
Of course, he claimed for most of his life that it is merely an acronym for “Locally Integrated Software Architecture,” but, during a discussion with U2’s Bono (at which Lisa was also present), Jobs confirmed that Apple Lisa was named after his daughter.
He confirmed that story publicly near the end of his life for Walter Isaacson’s majestic biography, Steve Jobs: “obviously, it was named for my daughter,” he admitted.
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“Small Fry Quotes”I wished that I wanted less, needed less, was one of those succulents that have a tangle of wiry, dry roots and a minty congregation of leaves and can survive on only the smallest bit of moisture and air. Click To Tweet My happiness had been pulled from the reserve of hers, a limited string we had to share. Click To Tweet What I wanted, what I felt owed, was some clear place in the hierarchy of those he loved. Click To Tweet Steve Jobs: They teach you how other people think, during your most productive years… It kills creativity. Makes people into bozos. Click To Tweet When I was reading, I was not lonely or self-aware. I felt upheld by the stories… When I stopped reading, I felt lonely again, like a window had been thrown open. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Ever since Lisa Brennan-Jobs announced that she was writing a memoir of her upbringing back in March 2018, Small Fry became one of the most anticipated books of recent times. Six months later, the book was published—and, in our opinion, it turned out to be precisely what we expected to be.
Honest, direct, brutal, and iconoclastic, but also quite touching and heartbreaking, Small Fry has what many memoirs don’t: an exceptional subject matter. And it treats it the way it deserves: vividly and accurately, but also tenderly and affectionately.
When you finish the book, you’re bound to spend some time thinking along the lines of a New York Times article, which appeared just before the book was published: “In ‘Small Fry,’ Steve Jobs Comes Across as a Jerk. His Daughter Forgives Him. Should We?”