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Society's Child: My Autobiography

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  534 ratings  ·  116 reviews
Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter Janis Ian's memoir of her more than forty years in the music business.

Janis Ian was catapulted into the spotlight in 1966 at the age of fifteen when her soul-wrenching song "Society's Child" became a national hit. An intimate portrait of an interracial relationship, "Society's Child" climbed the charts despite the fact that many
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published July 24th 2008 by Tarcher (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 931)
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there is something about the overall tone of this book that i find really off-putting, but i cant articulate what it is. if someone else who has read this can give me a hand...
love her music, the book was just eh.
Sep 13, 2008 Jennifer rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who enjoyed Positively Fourth Steet by David Hajdu
Recommended to Jennifer by: Cindy D.
Shelves: adult-books
Before Britney Spears, The Jonas Brothers, or Miley Cyrus, there was Janis Ian! Ian was a sixties wunderkind who scored her first single at the age of 15, made millions, lost them, and had both a husband and a wife during her storied lifetime. Unlike many other singers and actors, Ian can actually write, and her autobiography goes down easily in great, gritty gulps of sex, drugs and rock and roll. I especially enjoyed the earlier sections about her hippie-dippy upbringing and summers at "commie" ...more
I wish I could give this book six stars.

Even if you've never heard of Janis Ian, the story of her life will call to you if you have ever felt lost, marginalized, unheard, or brokenhearted. At the same time that I wanted to scoop her up and hug her and tell her everything was going to be all right, I wanted every hurting and confused sixteen year old girl I know to read this book so that they could see that even when you think it can't get worse, it will; but it will also get much, much better.

Let me start by saying that I love Janis Ian! Her music is beautiful and inspiring! Janis tells a story with every song, in great depth and with a passion that today's "songwriters" (a term I feel is used far too broadly in this day and age) lack in both originality and expression. She is incredibly multi-talented and it is a shame to not introduce her to younger audiences who have no idea what true musical talent really is.

That being said, whether you are a fan or not, 'Society's Child:My Autob
(read as audiobook)

Although she's not widely recognized for it, Janis Ian was a pioneer--as a musician, as an admitted and acknowledged lesbian, and as an independent artist making use of the Internet to connect with fans and market her work. All of that gives her story continued relevance. And the personal tragicomedy of it--the romantic drama, the associates who proved untrustworthy, the vindictive IRS agent who pursued her for years over back taxes--makes it fascinating reading.

I found that I
Lori Paul
This book came highly recommended and since I enjoy autobiographical works read by the author, I purchased it on While it's true that having Ms. Ian perform parts of her songs as her narration went along was interesting and innovative, the story she tells is self-aggrandizing to the point of being nauseating. I made it through the first half thinking it would become more self-aware and enjoyable as she became more mature but no such luck. By the time she (*spoiler alert) marries her ...more
This is an interesting book by an interesting writer. Janis Ian had her first big hit when still in her teens with the classic "Society's Child," and has had no less than TWO musical comebacks over the course of her career. Who says there are no second acts in American lives? Take that, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Following her life from her very "hippie" upbringing through the present day, this autobiography shows Ian's ups and downs as she deals with fame, personal and professional problems, and all t
Things Janis and I have in common: Born within a year of each other, to secular Jewish parents with Communist links. Started to talk early, started to read early, were told we had genius IQs. Concert-quality pianist fathers who gave us lessons. Younger brothers named Eric. Voracious science fiction readers since childhood. Self-imposed (maybe) identity as a misfit. Under 4'11". Queer.

What Janis also had, and has: A very high activity/energy level, copious talent, self-motivation, drive, persiste
Kristi Richardson
This is one of my favorite audible books this year. I can understand why it is nominated for an audible award. I normally don't like authors reading their own books but I make an exception in this case.

Janis Ian opens each chapter singing one of her songs so no one else could do this book justice. I was amazed at everything this talented woman went through in her life so far. She had child abuse, marital abuse, IRS problems due to a manager that stole from her, and health issues that affected h
I joined a new library system the other week, and was finally able to get my hands on a copy of this book. (I should've have just gone ahead and bought it since I've been wanting to read it for so long, but oh well.)

Ever since I happened upon the song 'Society's Child' a few years back, I have held Janis Ian in high esteem. (Read: I have been a massive fangirl of hers and have spent hours alone listening to or singing her music.) This book just increased my surety that Janis Ian is a matchless a
The best way to enjoy this book is to listen to the audio version, narrated by Janis. You'll get some wonderful, musical chapter openers from Janis that really set the mood. Janis appears to be a very courageous, positive person, someone to be admired. The only thing that puzzled me is that Janis did not express her feelings concerning the death of her friend, Janis Joplin. She mentioned JJ, but did not mention her feelings after JJ had passed away. I found this odd. But I guess she had her reas ...more
Karen Ireland-Phillips
Ms. Ian said she wanted to write her autobiography as if it'd been written by John Grisham. She suceeded. It's fast-moving, covers a lot of years and deep emotional territory without ever dipping very far into the underlying emotional state of the author. It simultaneously tells you a great deal about this phenomenal singer/songwriter's life while keeping the reader at arms length. Far more moving, and immediate, was the talk about the book I had the fortune to hear her give about the book in Cl ...more
Another librarian posted an article about Janis Ian's talk at a library conference. It was very moving and so I put her autobiography on hold at the library.
It's taken me quite a while to get through it. There was a lot of sadness and sometimes, I just had to put it aside.
I have 3 children who are artists of one kind or another. Reading this book about this artist makes me hope for them that they have enough joy and enough success to have a good life without the awfulness of big success.
It seems
I have loved Janis Ian's music for 30 years. But I like it less having read this autobiography, which disappoints me terribly for its endless self-indulgence and frequent deviations into irrelevance or self-justification. It's got one of the best first lines of any autobiography I've read--"I was born into the crack that split America"--but it's all downhill from there. Ian doesn't emerge as a very likable character, alas. I wish her well and am glad her life is finally on track, but in this cas ...more
This is one of those books that is better heard than read. Janis Ian does a wonderful job as narrator. In fact, it's kind of like having her sitting in the next chair telling you about her life. As you would expect from a singer, she has a very appealing speaking voice. It doesn't hurt, either, that this medium gives her the opportunity to sing a few bits of her songs. After all, they are largely autobiographical, too. I had no idea she was quite as big a star as she appears to have been, althou ...more
Susan Moss
Society's Child: My Autobiography by Janis Ian (finished 6/14/14): I've been a fan of Janis Ian's music for quite a while. I remember when Society's Child first came out... I lived At Seventeen... I recall her hiatus from the music business and her triumphant return with Hunger and god & the fbi. I've seen her in concert multiple times (as long-ago as college days... at Main Street Cafe in Homestead FL... as recent as the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival). In fact, I bought this book at FRFF 2010 ...more
Linda Lipko
Highly Recommended

While listening to Janis Ian perform at a local Musikfest, I took a wonderful, magical trip down memory lane. I purchased a copy of her recently released autobiography and read it in one sitting -- late into the wee morning hours.

I know the words to all the songs and now it is a special gift to hear the stories behind some of them and to learn the twists and turns of her journey.

Her well-written, insightful book shines a bright light in the corners of the rough spots of darknes
I'm giving this 3 stars for the content, 5 stars for her reading, so it balances out to 4 stars. Janis Ian's autobiography relates the story of an artist who gained fame at the young age of 15 years and had many other peaks and valleys throughout her life. Having been so successful at an early age was perhaps a detriment as she seemed to be too trusting in her professional life as well as her personal one. As I listened, I came to expect that if things were going smoothly, then something was jus ...more
what we love about a Janis Ian song - the singular ability to bring you right back to that moment of rejection, the aching pain that can never be forgotten, that full & satisfying wallow in despair - is the reason her autobiography is horribly narcissistic: a song lasts for 4-7minutes, and this book is 9+ hours.
of wallowing.

she writes like she's still 18 years old, the world is out to get her, and nothing is her fault. she was careful to praise most people on a professional level (be it sin
This phenomenal singer-songwriter, Janis Ian, had some sort of dark cloud following her in her life. Perhaps it was the curse of being born with a genius IQ and the soul of an artist. The author narrated and her voice was mesmerizing. She is so open about her darkest moments and deepest struggles, both physical and emotional. She is intellectually voracious, brutally honest about her emotional life, and also shares her experiences in the music world, which are fabulous. Imagine sitting around ja ...more
Daniela Botterbusch
If you're considering this book, I highly recommend the audiobook (Audible) version. Janice Ian narrates, and she performs snippets of her own work throughout.
T de F Vicuña
Janis Ian has an astonishing story to tell and listening to her narrate the audio version of her book made it all the more extraordinary. She recounts the milestones in her eventful life with candour and often humour.

I knew little of her personal story and this book was compelling. Her unconventional upbringing, astounding musical success as a 15 year old, the nature of and the way she dealt with various types of abuse, her personal relationships...the list goes on and this is before considerin
SOCIETY’S CHILD. (2008). ****. Janice Ian was one of my idols when I was much younger. Since then, I haven’t heard much about her, but, then, I haven’t been trying to keep up either. In this autobiography, she manages to tell the story of her amazing success and her equally amazing plunge to the depths. She was a smart Jewish girl from New Jersey who had an ear for words and music. She always marched to the beat of a different drummer (or guitarist). Her songs were always soulful, if not downrig ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Society’s Child, by Janis Ian, narrated by the author, produced by Audible Inc., downloaded from

The publisher’s note says it best. I only wish to add that Janis Ian’s narration is really a performance. She has a wonderful voice for narrating, and whenever she is talking about a particular song, she gives us samples of the song by singing it and accompanying herself with her guitar. It is really a performance. I loved this book and wondered what had happened to Janis Ian.
I knew nothing about Janis Ian before I began listening to her autobiography but I was blown away by it. A hit songwriter at 14 she was very different from today's young pop stars. For one thing, she didn't set out to be a star. She set out to be a song writer. Fame was a side benefit/curse. What she showed so clearly (and what is mirrored in today's young stars) is that families don't know how to handle the fame. Janis wasn't looking for sex and drugs. She was looking for an education but her t ...more
Darlene Vendegna
Janis Ian is a renowned singer songwriter. Her way with language and story telling is evident in many of the hundreds of songs she has written for herself and others to sing and make hits. This gift is never more evident than in her autobiography. It details her life from the little girl on a chicken farm to a successful multiple grammy winning performer and happily married (even happier now that DOMA has been repealed)woman. She's been witness to a lot of history; from the civil rights movement ...more
Vincent Eaton
Have enjoyed Janis Ian's singing and songwriting, and of late her guitar playing, from the very first. This autobiography was pleasant and enjoyable. However, it was much more of the "then this happened, then this happened" than an intimate journey inside the lady. Patti Smith's "Just Kids" was much more interestingly detailed on the musical personalities she met (some of the same Ian meets) and they come alive; for Ian, they are sketched with a few sentences, for one incident, and never heard f ...more
Thomas DeWolf
When I closed the cover after finishing Janis Ian's autobiography, I took a deep breath, sighed, and wished there were more. It was a walk through her life, and by extension, my own... a walk through the music and history of Janis Ian, and other musicians I've listened to all my life, our country during the turbulent last half century as we've grown and changed our perceptions of each other in terms of race, gender, sexual identity and so much more.

Having read the hardcover, I now look forward t
I listened to Society's Child and Between the Lines repeatedly when they first came out and I had the privilege of seeing Janis perform recently at the American Library Association in Chicago. I bought this and her children's book and chatted with her briefly as she signed both books following her performance. I started reading this at the airport and stayed up last night to finish it. I had no idea she'd gone through so much in her life, and am even more impressed with how she'd come through al ...more
I'm glad that I listened to the audiobook version of this - Janis Ian did a fantastic job with the audiobook narration, and I liked that they included performances by Ian in with the narration. I can see why it won the Spoken Word Grammy.

The first few chapters seemed the strongest to me. There were definitely sections in the middle that were incredibly puzzling - why would someone make the choices she made, what were her motivations, in many ways the middle section in particular was a recitatio
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this book 3 9 Aug 30, 2013 04:44PM  
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I was was born April 7, 1951, a month and day shared with Billie Holiday. Wrote my first song at 12, was published at 13, made a record at 14, had a hit at 15, and was a has-been at 16. I took a break for 3 years shortly thereafter, and moved to Philadelphia to write and find out if I really could be a great songwriter. "Came back" in 1973 with an album called Stars, and was fortunate enough to ha ...more
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