‘I Hope Thanksgiving’s OK’
None of that, of course, was imaginable when Ms. Brennan-Jobs was born on May 17, 1978, on a commune farm in Oregon. Her parents, who had met in high school in Cupertino, Calif., were both 23. Mr. Jobs arrived days after the birth and helped name her, but refused to acknowledge that he was the father. To support her family, Ms. Brennan cleaned houses and used government assistance. Only after the government sued Mr. Jobs did he agree to pay child support.
“Small Fry” describes how Mr. Jobs slowly took a greater interest in his daughter, taking her skating and coming over to her house for visits. Ms. Brennan-Jobs moved in with him for a time during high school, when her mother was struggling with money and her temper, but Mr. Jobs was cold and had extreme demands for what being a member of the family entailed. The neighbors next door worried about the teenage Lisa, and one night, when Mr. Jobs was out, they moved her from his house and into theirs. Against Mr. Jobs’s wishes, the neighbors paid for her to finish college. (He later paid them back.)
In an interview, Ms. Brennan-Jobs spoke of “not wanting to alienate people” she loves, but acknowledged that her memoir might do just that. Aside from Mr. Jobs, all the central characters are very much alive. “I hope Thanksgiving’s O.K.,” she said.
Her mother, Ms. Brennan, is portrayed as a free spirit who nurtured her daughter’s creativity — but could be mercurial, hot-tempered and sometimes neglectful. “It was horrendous for me to read,” Ms. Brennan said in an interview. “It was very, very hard. But she got it right.”
Mr. Jobs’s infamous venom is on frequent display in “Small Fry.” Out one night at dinner, Mr. Jobs turns to his daughter’s cousin, Sarah, who has just unknowingly offended him by ordering meat. “‘Have you ever thought about how awful your voice is?” Mr. Jobs asks Sarah. “Please stop talking in that awful voice,” he says, adding, “You should really consider what’s wrong with yourself and try to fix it.”
Ms. Brennan-Jobs describes her father’s frequent use of money to confuse or frighten her. “Sometimes he decided not to pay for things at the very last minute,” she writes, “walking out of restaurants without paying the bill.” When her mother found a beautiful house and asked Mr. Jobs to buy it for her and Lisa, he agreed it was nice — but bought it for himself and moved in with his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs.
Ms. Brennan said that her daughter has, if anything, underplayed the chaos of her childhood. “She didn’t go into how bad it really was, if you can believe that,” she said.