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Small Fry: A Memoir

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Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents--artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs--Lisa Brennan-Jobs's childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa's father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, her father took an interest in her, ushering her into a new world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained in high school, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he'd become the parent she'd always wanted him to be.

Small Fry is Lisa Brennan-Jobs's poignant story of a childhood spent between two imperfect but extraordinary homes. Scrappy, wise, and funny, young Lisa is an unforgettable guide through her parents' fascinating and disparate worlds. Part portrait of a complex family, part love letter to California in the seventies and eighties, Small Fry is an enthralling book by an insightful new literary voice.

383 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2018

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Lisa Brennan-Jobs

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,727 reviews
Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,186 followers
December 29, 2018
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I love to read memoirs. I do not love to read memoirs in which the author is either begging for pity or bragging. Unfortunately, in Small Fry Lisa Brennan-Jobs does both. She writes very well, descriptively, and engagingly; otherwise, I would not have been able to stomach this book at all. She held my attention even whilst she annoyed the hell out of me.

Small Fry is about Lisa's childhood and her relationship with her sometimes-there/sometimes-not-there father, Steve Jobs. Nothing shocking that he wasn't Father of the Year material. He could be emotionally distant and awkward and wasn't always around when she was young. However, he did not seem to be the monster she often wants us to think he was. At least to me, her childhood seemed rather normal and easy, even enviable, nothing to feel sorry for her about. OK, it's not fun to worry that maybe your father doesn't love you, and I feel compassion for the child she was that she often didn't feel loved and cared about by him. However, she was not physically or sexually abused, was loved by her parents, was never homeless, didn't lack medical care, didn't go to bed hungry or go without shoes, clothes, etc. Was her childhood perfect? No, I'm sure it wasn't. However, it did not sound traumatic or dangerous or even particularly sad, and her self-pity is more than irritating, it's nauseating. If she was still a child, I'd feel sorry for her. Somewhat. Maybe. Because I'm sure it's tough being a kid no matter what your childhood is like and never knowing how attentive her father would be must have been confusing and painful at times. However, as an adult, Ms. Brennan-Jobs need to look around her, maybe pick up one of many other memoirs, and realize that she's not the only one who wasn't happy 100% of the time as a child. She actually had a quite nice childhood for the most part, from my vantage point. In my opinion, Lisa comes across as a poor-me-rich girl. Were her parents perfect? No, but whose parents are? Did they love her? Yes, though I can understand how she would feel unloved at times by her father when she was a child. For that alone I feel compassion for the child she was.

However, I just can't take people who want to always make themselves a victim to gain pity and attention. I'm very compassionate, but my empathy wears thin when I feel I'm being manipulated into giving it. That's what I felt from this book, that I was being manipulated.. I also feel like she was simultaneously bragging about her father being Steve Jobs (which, actually, is the only thing in this book that makes her stand out from thousands of other people, the fact that she had a famous and rich father) and about the name brand clothing he bought her (though she also complained that he didn't buy her as many clothes as she'd liked to have had because he was so, so mean to her).

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Also proof he was a monster -- she sometimes had to babysit her brother AND she had to do the dishes -- by hand !!!! Their dishwasher was broken and she had to do the dishes. By hand. Poor, poor girl. Wow. I was flummoxed when I read that! I suppose with everything up to that point, it shouldn't have shocked me, but it did. Another instance of her whining that made my jaw drop open, was that when she visited her mother, her father wouldn't drive her --- it was 4 blocks away and she was a teenager! Lisa comes across as very selfish and self-centred, very full of herself, and possessing an extreme sense of entitlement. She really does need to look around and see what many people around the world suffer on a daily basis. She could start by reading any number of memoirs, or even just watching the news. I find it abhorrent that she expects people to feel sorry for her when many people would gladly fill her shoes, and she is totally ignorant of that fact.

Maybe some people will enjoy this book; as I said above, it is written very well, though there is not much remarkable in it and it is monotonous in places. She writes well and for that alone I give this 2 stars. Otherwise it would have gone on the abandoned shelf.

"It was hard to understand why someone who had enough money would create a sense of scarcity, why he wouldn't lavish us with it."

And that, my friends, seems to be the issue.... she didn't get as much as she wanted growing up or as an adult. I can't help but being left with the feeling that she's unhappy with the multi-millions he left her, thinking she deserved more, and this book is her middle finger thrust at his grave. Grow up, Lisa.
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews908 followers
August 19, 2019
I have a bit of a fascination with Steve Jobs. I worked for a company that was one of the first to attempt to adopt his innovative NeXT computer system in the early 90’s after he left Apple. Like other companies, we had to abandon it because it was highly proprietary and no other software would work with it. Shortly thereafter, I ran into him at the remote Hawaiian resort he favored (no TVs, no phones, very isolated) and was struck by his markedly furtive behavior and the sharp, hostile glare I got when he realized I had recognized him. I didn’t approach or speak to him and sure as heck would never have revealed that I worked for the company that recently dumped him, having heard about his tantrums. I have read almost everything I can get my hands on about him, so obviously, I had to read this autobiography by his oldest daughter, Lisa.

If you know even the slightest bit about Steve Jobs, you know he was a bit of an asshole. Odd. Exacting. Uncompromising. Blunt. Fastidious. Asocial.

Now imagine him as a parent. An unwilling parent.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs is happy to describe that experience for you. She is the daughter of Jobs and his high school girlfriend, Chrisann Brennan. Jobs from the beginning denied Lisa was his child when she clearly was. Even after genetic testing, he still protested. Lisa details her childhood through adulthood, caught between her hippie, emotionally unstable mother and the remote, casually cruel Jobs. It’s quite a story. None of them, including the manipulative Lisa, come off very well.

Re Jobs - it’s almost as if he was an empty vessel or an alien trying to impersonate a human being without any real understanding of what it means to be human. As brilliant as he was (and he was!), he was a terrible “human.”

This is Lisa’s story, so it’s about her life growing up and reveals Jobs from her viewpoint as his daughter. If you want to know more about Steve Jobs, I highly recommend Walter Isaacson’s exceptional biography “Steve Jobs.” I would read that first, then Lisa’s story as it gives you a better background on the enigma that was Jobs.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews42 followers
July 13, 2019
Update: $1.99 kindle special today. I thought this book ( Audiobook) was sooo enjoyable. The Bay Area - itself- was a main character
I spent more than $1.99. lol

It’s GOOD!

Audiobook....narrated by Eileen Stevens

“I’m one of the most important people you will ever know”....

Who talks like that?...to your 3 year old daughter?
But ... it’s TRUE!!! Steve Jobs ‘was’ the most important person Lisa Brennan-Jobs knew growing up. He was her ‘daddy’.
Can we laugh now?
Of course we see the sadness.
Lisa grew up in the distant shadows of one of the most well known names on the planet - computer genius - Steve Jobs.


Must this be a serious review?
Sorry - read other reviews for ‘serious’. You’ll find plenty of opinions. Lisa was either authentic and wonderful or vindictive... or .. or... or... ‘whatever’!!
Depends on readers points of views.

I won’t loose any sleep feeling sorry for Lisa.
Everyone- Steve Jobs -Lisa - Lisa’s mother, Chrisann, their parents friends, Lisa’s friends ... ‘everyone’ was flawed.

Silicon Valley isn’t exactly flawless - either. We have a housing shortage- yet Apple and Google - both - continue to build spaceship- type companies employing thousands and thousands of workers.

Lisa’s childhood growing up thrifty around wealthy is more common than people realized. Yet... it’s confusing to a kid.
Side-by-side .... here in Palo Alto - Los Altos Hills - Menlo Park- Atherton - Woodside - even in Monte Sereno-
there are single mom’s raising a child living in a back cottage of a larger house.
Lisa ‘wasn’t’ the only child with a single mom in the Bay Area. But...I’m sure it felt like that to her at the time.

Paul and I were ‘cracking up’ listening to this Audiobook together. Are we bad? We had our own side dialogue going. Buddy Listening with your spouse is a blast of fun. Our soaking in the warm pool for a few hours of listening was part of our enjoyment/ listening.

Paul & I both found this book interesting.
Interesting is an interesting word choice .... but that’s what I’m going with.
Paul was funny.
“Whose Debbie, again and why was she important?”, he asks me. Debbie was an older woman/ friend to Lisa when she was a child. Her mom was terribly jealous; the relationship ended abruptly.
And.... “Steve wasn’t ‘that’ bad”...Paul says!!
“well, ok, maybe he was”, Paul says later...
“Why did Lisa write this book?”
“I don’t know, Paul... should we call Lisa and ask her?”

“They never talk to each other”, Paul says during a very funny dinner scene over a salad at Steve’s Woodside Home.
Soo funny... it’s true.
Conversation wasn’t a strong suit.

A few activities with dad growing up:
...roller skating
...a visit to his office
...a ride in his Porsche
...dinner alone and a sleepover at his Woodside house.
...soaking in the hot tub together
...a delivery - gift of a Mac Computer
...but conversation? Not really!

Activities with mom:
...Drawing, ( mom was a talented starving artist)
...day trips, (museums),
...pool parties at friends who swim naked.
... moving 13 times
...a ‘break-in’ to take a couch from Steve’s house in Monte Sereno when Steve didn’t show- up. ( proud ‘mom’ moment)... ha!

So? What to make of this book? It’s your choice!! Read it - don’t read it. It’s not going to change your life either way.
It’s Lisa’s memoir.

I’m going with the full 5 stars:
...enjoyment human interest story - for both Paul & I
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
June 10, 2022
Have you ever read a book that you can’t shut up about?

As in, a reading experience that takes up so much room in your brain that you can barely think about anything else, let alone talk about it?

That was how I felt about this book. It was consuming.

I must have said some variation on the words “You know, Steve Jobs was actually a pretty bad guy...like, I’m reading some pretty disturbing stuff about how he was as a dad.”

This is obviously a very reductionist take on not only Steve Jobs but this book. Rest assured - this statement was a mere test, and if anyone responded with anything other than the most blatant disinterest I launched into a monologue.

This is beautiful, uncomfortable, stay-with-you-forever writing.

Usually I hate when books take up valuable cover space with blurbs and compliments. TELL ME ABOUT YOUR STORY, I yell at the pages, drawing unnecessary attention to myself in the bookstore by scolding inanimate objects.

But there's a line on the back of this that sums up the experience of reading it better than any synopsis:

"mesmerizing, discomfiting reading."

The best memoirs show an astounding level of empathy. Not necessarily sympathy, or forgiveness, or unearned kindness, but the empathy it takes to tell other people’s stories honestly where they come into contact with your own.

This does so masterfully, even in the face of some of the most complicated relationships I’ve read about.

A few weeks after reading it, I still think about it a lot.

Bottom line: I am going to begin carrying a copy of this with me at all times, so that when any tech bro worshipfully mentions Steve Jobs I can smack them with this book and then tell them to read it.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,739 reviews14.1k followers
October 3, 2018
4.5 Well, I gobbled this one up in a few short days. As soon as I started reading this, I was fascinated and totally immersed in Lisa's story. Steve Jobs, Apple, not many happy not heard that too names. I don't use Apple products myself, don't even, voluntarily mind you, own a cell phone, but my daughter is an avid user. I'm just blown away by all the interesting non fiction being published right now. This one was garnering such great reviews from critics and readers alike, I had to grab it.

Lisa, the eldest daughter of Steve Jobs, her parents never married, separated before the was born. For the first years of her life, he denied she was his child. Eventually, due to child support payments, a judge would order a paternity test taken, which proved she was his. Though for s time he would still deny this fact. When she was a little older he began to pay hef more attention, entering and leaving her life, sporadically. Caught between two such disparate parents, lifestyles, her father alternately demanding, of negligent, her mother struggking financially and emotionally, she struggled to find her place, where she belonged. Such interesting reading, so many insights into a life few will live or see. To say Jobs was a strange duck, with strange ways, is an understatement.

It would be easy to dismiss him as just another negligent, self centered man, but I think he also struggled. To connect, to communicate, adopted as a child I felt he was very insecure, had strange ways of making people prove they cared about him. Lisa, tells her story, or their story, honestly send without dramatics. Saying, this I how it was, how I felt, how I wished it could be. Difficult upbringing, struggling often, she does remarkablly well, not without a great deal of trying and tears, I'm sure, but as always I'm amazed by the strength and versatility of the human spirit. She is a truly amazing young woman.

Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
December 29, 2018
A Land Apart

What a Jerk. Steve Jobs was clearly in that elite group of psychos which includes Trump, Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk. Bullies, liars, pathologically egocentric, litigious bastards one and all. And any taste they have is restricted to their mouths.

Whether or not the world at large is a better place because of Steve Jobs is open to debate. But the immediate world of those around him was hell. Dumps his first partner (actually she dumps him); denies paternity of the child; pays peanuts in child support; apparently stays in contact mainly to gloat. You get the picture.

No doubt the house cleaner/aspiring painter ex is more than a bit flakey. And the child didn’t benefit much from her mother’s ineptness with relationships and employment. Stability was not a virtue the little duo was blessed with. But hey you’d think after his first few hundred million bucks Jobs might have settled them in someplace cozy. Not a chance. Although to be fair, he did help with the rent.

As we all know California is a place and a society apart. Perhaps it always has been since the time when the first inhabitants trailed in from Asia. It seems to me that this myopic biography is as much about the strangeness of California as a culture as it is about what is really only a footnote in Jobs’s life. It’s context to that life rather than content.

The genre to which this book could be assigned is something like Detritus of the Rich and Famous - a melange of random memoir, light gossip, and relational failure. Marginally interesting for the enthusiast but hardly more revelatory than what’s already available about a seriously neurotic and seriously distasteful Titan of business.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
60 reviews4 followers
September 5, 2018
The headline of the NYT review referred to Steve Jobs as a "terrible dad" but the book is so much more than a smear of Jobs as a parent or human. He was, most certainly a difficult, deeply flawed human but in her beautiful memoir, Lisa Brennan-Jobs is graceful, not bitter. She reveals the wounds inflicted by both parents and her longing to belong in her two families, in school, and in a world she was too young to understand. Any child of divorced parents will recognize her complex and confusing emotions. Readers who have loved a visionary driven to create or change the world will keenly understand her roller coaster ride, tremendous pride in the achievements of the one you love, alternating with frustration that even though they give so much to the world they are often incapable of being present for the family. Every parent who has the courage to honestly acknowledge their own flaws, successes, and failures will have at least a little empathy for Jobs and Lisa's mother, Chrisann. Finally, anyone who lived in Palo Alto in the 80's and 90's will enjoy the references to the town when it was quirkier and, IMO, more interesting than it is today. The description of The Good Earth may have been worth the price of the book. This is a moving coming-of-age story more than a goldmine for Steve Jobs fanboys or those who want to scorn the rich and famous. I loved it and am giving to my daughter.
Profile Image for Leslynn.
387 reviews88 followers
July 22, 2018
Copy courtesy of NetGalley

So, this book....... it's one of those which elicit strong emotions in a reader, especially a parent. There are times when you wonder why these people were allowed to be parents, why no-one smacked some sense into Steve & whateverthemothersnamewas, how did this child evolve into a somewhat coherent individual?

Proof that:

- intellect does not ensure good parenting (or even a mediocre attempt at it)
- fame & money clearly does not make you happy
- whateverthemothersnamewas was a selfish, brutish individual who should have made better life choices
- that children defy, even after death
- even when surrounded by people, you can be alone.

A well-written memoir, which is worth reading.
Profile Image for Brandice.
860 reviews
August 12, 2021
Small Fry is a memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the oldest daughter of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. In this book she recounts her childhood, growing up primarily with her mom though later moving into Steve’s house and living there with him, her stepmom, and half siblings. ⁣

While I typically don’t enjoy stream of consciousness style books, this one leaned that way, not always following a linear path (which wasn’t an issue) and providing snippets into Lisa’s life generally, and as Steve Jobs’s daughter. ⁣

Their relationship felt distant — He was often cool toward her and the activities she found interest in, expecting her to be home often, participating as a family member, but then leaving her out of some family photos and expecting her to stay behind to babysit her younger brother frequently, including once when Steve had invited her to a wedding. It didn’t seem like much stability for Lisa. Things were also up and down with her mom, their relationship equally turbulent. ⁣

Small Fry was an interesting read and makes a great complement to Walter Isaccson’s biography of Steve Jobs, which I read, now several years ago, and found very compelling.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,656 followers
March 14, 2021
This was an insightful and heartbreaking memoir. The author is the daughter of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple and a notorious jerk.

I will admit that I almost stopped reading this book because it was so disturbing in parts. I was angry with how cruel Steve could be to Lisa and her mother, who was Steve's former girlfriend. For years, Steve denied that Lisa was his child, which was devastating for her. Even though he eventually acknowledged he was her biological parent, Lisa grew up feeling as if she were a mistake, something that Steve wished hadn't happened. Lisa's emotional journey is a compelling story, and I'm glad I finished the book.

By the end of the memoir, Lisa seems to have found some peace with her father, who died of cancer in 2011. Previously I had read Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve, and Lisa's book is a good complement to that impressive work. I would recommend both books to anyone interested in learning more about the genius/asshole Steve Jobs.

Favorite Quotes
"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."

[on living at Steve's house]
"It looks so good here ... When you looked into the windows of other houses, beautiful ones, the people inside the light, you imagined happiness for them. Now I was inside it. How can it look so good but feel bad? ... It must be me that was wrong, I thought. Not it."

[Steve commenting on Lisa's high school activities]

"The thing is, Lis," he said, in the slow voice that meant he was about to say something incisive and possibly devastating, "you have no marketable skills, not one."

"But I'm doing all these activities," I said, "and I get A's!" And yet even as I said it — the newspaper, the mock trial, the fact that I'd worked at a lab over the summer, and took Japanese — I wilted. I got his point. The confection of extracurricular activities, the flurry of self-importance — it was just a fever dream. No one hires someone for being on a debate team. I had not impressed him or fooled him. He knew all this stuff wasn't worth much, and he was worried for my future.

I assumed that activities led to other activities in a ladder ascending to adult responsibility. I wasn't supposed to be prepared for an adult job. Others seemed to think that too. At the same time, because he spoke with authority, and because I had been hoping to impress him, and because he was famous and successful and knew about the world, the remark was devastating ... We all made allowances for his eccentricities, the ways he attacked other people, because he was also brilliant, and sometimes kind and insightful. Now I felt he'd crush me if I let him. He would tell me how little I meant over and over until I believed it. What use was his genius to me?
Profile Image for Alex.
647 reviews88 followers
January 24, 2019
This book was horribly boring and I question why Brennan-Jobs story is one that needed to be memorialized, other than for the fact her father is Steve Jobs and that he was a bit of an asshole. Do not get the hype at all.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,470 reviews565 followers
February 27, 2019
[3+] This is not a memoir in which I identified with the writer. Lisa Brennan-Jobs defines herself by her absent, fickle, often selfish father. We don't learn much about her - except through her lense of what her father has taken away from her (and occasionally given her). The book is readable and at times fascinating. But it is also frustrating. Brennan-Jobs is a fine writer and the book would have been improved with a focus on more than what she needed from her father and didn't get. She is still stuck there.
Profile Image for Roxanne.
99 reviews4 followers
June 21, 2018
Lisa Brennan-Jobs new memoir, Small Fry, is searing in a Mommy Dearest expose` way, with me exclaiming and throwing the book down on at least three occasions, with a, “He did what?!”.

And that’s saying something for a former high school counselor, who’d thought I had hardened to any shock at inconsistent parenting and emotional abuse. So let me tell you, Steve Jobs takes the Apple cake. But instead, pick up a copy of Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book and let her tell you in her very rational, yet compelling writer’s voice.
Profile Image for Laura Noggle.
677 reviews388 followers
March 9, 2019
Mixed feelings on this one.

Similar to death by a thousand cuts, this book reads like a slow madness incurred from a thousand barbed slights by Steve Jobs.

It was interesting, and mundane at the same time. It's more a collection of vignettes of Steve Jobs through his first daughter's eyes, than an autobiography of Lisa. She is only present in the book in relation to him, her feelings about him, and her struggle to feel welcomed and validated in his life.

Clearly, Lisa hasn't yet let go of a lot of baggage, but maybe this book was a catharsis writing. A telling of all the wrongs. Steve Jobs farted. He walked around in his underwear, and was an aloof a$$ to those around him.

I kept reading, hoping to see "the other" side of Steve Jobs more. Lisa was less a character than a conduit, giving the people what they wanted: dirt on her dad.

Somehow, I almost feel ... dirty after reading this. Or at least guilty, like how I feel after reading trashy tabloids.

Full RTC. (Maybe)
Profile Image for Jen.
426 reviews
September 10, 2018
I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. This was pretty bland and boring. I wouldn't recommend this with so many other great memoirs out there
Profile Image for Michael Scott.
725 reviews131 followers
September 12, 2018
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs is an autobiography presented as a coming-of-age story written for the target-audience of Steve Jobs fans and people interested in the myth surrounding the Apple creator who died not long ago. Overall, a good story, but with flaws, not enough about Steve Jobs to matter generally, and not enough alignment of values with the lead character to matter for me.

The writing is nice and flowing (except for the big gap in the maturing years discussed later in this review), with lyric descriptions, vivid dialogue, and good portrayal of the main character. The detail is humane and generally believable, which is particularly important for an autobiography. We learn of a shambolic early life, with plenty of moving around, an unstable mother, and quite a bit of toying around the hippy culture and the occult (palm-reading and totemic sticks spring to mind). We also learn of an inconsistent, unfrequent at first, fluctuating relationship with Steve Jobs. There is a good description of life under the roof of Steve Jobs' family, with strict rules and veganism, surprisingly frequent failure of tech objects, and hardship for a kid trying to get spoiled or at times even acknowledged. There is a passive-aggressive account and a hidden in plain sight accusation of Harvard deciding admissions based on daddy's bank account or global reputation, but this is nothing new. Perhaps one detail is new: recounting the moment where Steve Jobs admits the Lisa computer was named after her (this time, the claim can be confirmed by singer Bono, says the author, although this is a largely inaccessible witness).

As an example of good writing, consider: Our time together was not fluid but stuttered forward like a flip book.

The lead character, Lisa, gets a largely unkind spotlight. Lisa has many little moments of lapses in judgment and acting out on jealousy, tells the occasional big lie, and engages in thieving. She finds it difficult to accept herself, and develops a habit of playing the emotions of her mother, and of riding the checkbook and the name of her father. She also finds it difficult to accept the rules of the house, or that Steve Jobs insists she develops her own career and earns her own money (Marketable Skills). But she is vivid and visible throughout the book, albeit constantly brooding, which makes her a dramatic and thus memorable character. Perhaps the best compliment is that you could like this book even as fiction.

But there are also significant downsides, which derive from this being an autobiography of a person we assume lived near Steve Jobs.
(A personal downside is that I could not find myself sharing the values of the main character, but this may not be an issue for others.)

The overall story includes little characterization of people other than Lisa. Even then, the characterization occurs dynamically, through the eyes of the main character, with very little analysis. Thus, we learn next to nothing about Steve Jobs other than girl-Lis' idolized him and hated him at the same time, and then from suddenly mature Lisa that he never loved her and tried to take revenge on her for not adhering to his rules. The mother figure is at best pitied, at worst declared incompetent and also hated, albeit, with regret and turns. Laurene seems for a second to act as replacement-monther, and appears in a few moments of genuine support for young Lisa, but then is heard by Lisa declaring to a therapist she's a cold person and from then-on disappears from discussion despite the key role she must have played in the last days of Steve Jobs. The super-friendly neighbors who save Lisa's career by advancing her the money to do part of a year at Harvard and then a full year at the prestigious research university King's College in London, UK, receive a couple of neutral sounding lines, and we get very little sense of personality and only a rushed explanation of their seemimgly complex motivation for supporting her. The other characters remain obscure.

Similarly, there is insufficient description of places outside the places connected to her mother or Steve Jobs. There is little about living with the neighbors, and little about living at Harvard or King's College in London. If you want to care deeply about the main character, you are left with a large gap about these places, and the three to four years they represent. Worse, this leavea the coming-of-age story incomplete, because we lack the transition between girl-Lis' and mature-Lisa.

The key issue of inheritance. Jobs is quoted: “You’re not getting anything,” he said. “You understand? Nothing. You’re getting nothing.” And Lisa is clearly hoping to get at least a comfortable life, if not rich, consequence of Steve Jobs' wealth. Yet the subject is not further elaborated, and it remains unclear what she inherited, other than his name and a prestigious education.

The book generally presents Steve Jobs with a toned down but unmistakably passive-aggressive style. Whether Lisa's views on this topic are constantly kept in check to level the highs and the lows, or the book has been carefully scrubbed, (or there is another reason,) the result includes many small moments of adoration and elation (about as much as I'd expect from buying your 6th Apple iPhone or your second pair of identical jeans), and a few more moments of little pettiness (about as much as you'd say to the kids who stepped on one of your shrubs). This does not match the young age of the character presenting them. There is also the occasional more serious material, but never aimed at a significant protagonist. For example, the author claims that her mother hears that the gardner was a child-molester; the neighbors enter the Jobs residence to help her move out, without asking for permission from the owner; and it is also the neighbors who say Steve Jobs is neglecting her; etc.

The story includes key moments that reduce the credibility of the message or suspend the immersion of the reader. For example, there are moments of raw emotion interrupted by calculated observations on insignificant technical detail, e.g., "I was what she said I was, the kind of person who left the people they loved. I kept looking back." (powerful expression of guilt for leaving her mother), then immediately "In between looks I stepped carefully to avoid the hard fruits from the sweet gums. The trees were fiery orange and red, with star-shaped leaves" (careful and objective assessment of the surrounding, with a tinge of the naturalist lyricism). As another example, in a scene the writing mixes the young girl sense of wonderment and naive words, with the crisp analysis or pompous words of a mature person (e.g., "the house was Spanish-style, white stucco"); the result is uneven and suspends the immersion.

Several key moments require full trust in the story. For example, it seems less credible than it could the claim of confession and expressions of being sorry attributed to Steve Jobs, or that Steven Jobs makes good and pays back every cent spent by his neighbors to keep Lisa in school during the times Steve has reneged on her, or the little mischief in which Laurene raises her eyebrows to Lisa behind Steve's back to confirm he was a bad kisser (loc. 2901 of 5133). It is also convenient, and thus raising a credibility issue, to blame it exclusively on the neighbors for not attending her graduation ceremony in London; there is only a perfunctory explanation that they were upset with Steve Jobs' presence, but no phone call to understand their voice directly, no analysis as for many other important moments in the book, and no discussion about what happened between Steve Jobs and them when and since they took in Lisa and thus spirited her away from under her spell.

In the end, Lisa says Steve Jobs never loved her. But she also says love has no practical definition, and her life is factually rich for having been his daughter.
Profile Image for Sharon Metcalf.
734 reviews165 followers
February 21, 2019
Lisa Brennan-Jobs was the first daughter of world famous Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple and one of the richest men in the world. If, like me, you don't already know her story you might imagine for her a privileged life. If so, like me, you would be wrong. Hers is not exactly a story of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

From the outset Steve Jobs denied his paternity so her earliest years were spent with her artist mother. Later, he acknowleged her as a daughter but theirs was a volatile father-daughter relationship. She desperately wanted to be accepted but often when she was with him or around him she didn't feel she belonged. For a period of time in her teens she lived with him but this time was angst filled. Trying to make herself fit into two entirely different lifestyles. Life with her mother where they lived from hand to mouth, scraping to make ends, feeling cherished but smothered. Life with her father, with his wealth and surrounded by other famous people yet never feeling she was good enough, often feeling unimportant and incredibly lonely.

This was a cross between a coming of age story, an insight into the many ways parents can unwittingly damage their children, and a lesson about appreciating family whilst you have the chance. When she was young her mother had predicted “It’s his loss"... “His great, great loss. He’ll get it someday. He’ll come back and it’ll rip his heart open, when he sees you, how much you’re like him, and how much he's missed". Though Jobs was in and out of her life until his death (33 years after her birth) there did seem to be a death bed reconciliation which I was pleased about^^

Her writing had a ring of honesty as she shared examples about both the good and bad in everyone she wrote about, herself included. Perhaps my only complaint was a faint trace of 'woe-is-me' but overall it was an interesting read and most definitely made me realise that money and smarts are not all important. Lisa herself has done well and I congratulate her.

^^ This brought to mind a story which went viral on social media about a supposed death bed essay he'd written. Whilst the words I'd read were certainly valid and they align with the idea of understanding what's really valuable in one's life, there's no evidence that these words were actually his. Rather attributed to him.
Profile Image for librarianka.
116 reviews36 followers
June 20, 2019
This is a very well written and a very interesting memoir about the complex, distant father that Steve Jobs was to Lisa Brennan. The book joins its great predecessors such as the Educated: a memoir by Tara Westover or We are all shipwrecks: a memoir by Kelly Grey Carlisle that are non-fiction books that read like fiction. All the parts that make a great and compelling read are in place: an unusual and intriguing story, very high quality of writing and editing, maturity of the author able to transcend her experience and personal suffering and able to present an analytical, well-balanced piece of writing that is completely gripping. We cannot avoid rooting for the protagonist of this story and we get the satisfaction by observing how in spite of great adversity, she grows, matures, comes into her own. Lisa Brennan gives justice to the complexity of her father and presents a portrait that is far from simplistic and at the same time very vivid, clear and oddly in accordance with his own rules of esthetics: sparse and minimalistic, devoid of sentimentality. The subject matter of the story, the distant, at times cruel or even malicious father and the daughter who keeps seeking his approval, acceptance, admiration, love and who is denied this love by the parent, will resonate with many readers. The act of describing of the process of her coming into her own and moving beyond the negative formative experiences and its product - the book offers hope and might be as therapeutic to readers as it has been to its writer. As to the question posed many times: was Lisa, the first computer, named after the daughter of Steve Jobs? Yes and no. Watch 2015 documentary Steve Jobs the Man in the Machine to find out. Excellent and highly recommended book that could be material for a new film all together.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
701 reviews29.1k followers
September 4, 2018
I also grew up in Palo Alto at the same time so many of the places and references were violently real to me. Dragers? Check. Zohar? Check. The Good Earth? Check. That Whole Foods downtown? I can picture that place as if it were yesterday. It was kind of ratty in the old days. I'm sure it's supremely well-lit now.

This book was a bit heart-breaking. I have a lot of sympathy for the author as she describes how she yearns to be more part of her father's new family, yet never will be.
Profile Image for Clary.
26 reviews
November 6, 2018
Ugh. Just because it is a memoir does not mean one should recount random, unlinked vignettes of her life. And if this is the method chosen, bad idea as it is, at least stretch the imagination and insert some transitions in an attempt to show a created connection. At times, the author says "the next day" but no previous day was ever identified. It is not clear if she is 1 month old or 5 years old. At other times, she says "later." Later than what? I believed that some of the stories recounted were foreshadowing something! My expectation was way too high. Truly awful. I'm shocked by the high ratings and can only believe that they reflect readers' interest in Jobs himself on which the author certainly capitalized. I'm actually mad at myself for reading this. I cannot get the time back. I could not finish it.
Profile Image for Dovilė Filmanavičiūtė.
82 reviews2,194 followers
March 31, 2020
Make long story short: Styvas Džobsas buvo visiškas bybys. Sukrečiantis suvokimas yra šita knyga. Kai kurias emocinio smurto scenas norėčiau atskaityti atgal.
Profile Image for Melanie.
385 reviews10 followers
December 30, 2018
Guys, you don't have to read this book. Utter crap. This book is only relevant for people obsessed with Apple and Steve Jobs like he's some kind of genius or a god. Lisa is a very minor story in his life and this novel reads as such. I mean no wants to read about ordinary things done by ordinary people like a journal entry sans critical reflection. Like, my mother bought a car, we called Steve to pay the bill. I mean, just no. There's a lot of sentences like this, we called him up to ask for rent, we called him up to get his sofa....come on! Read the last two chapters or so and that's enough. I'll even make it easy for you - here's the Vanity Fair link of a chapter: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/.... You're welcome.

Yes, this was a very cleaned up memoir of Steve Jobs (I say this kindly because you are reading this because of him and NOT Lisa a really minor player in the Apple world!), too clean when in fact, he was an abusive asshole to her as a child up until his death. It was unclear to me what she wanted, to be loved by an abusive person, or to resolve to get away from obviously a hot-cold parent. Come on girl, stand up! Steve didn't even pay a lot of her tuition fee in Harvard (she got in because she dropped the name OMFG). Lisa was taken in by kind neighbors who put her through school and housed her for several years and she didn't even invite them to her graduation because Steve was invited. What?! Who are these people?

As you can see, the money and the Jobs name is obviously the path to wealth and fame, and I wouldn't mind if she chose that. She should cry it out over the rooftops. I just wanted her to be honest upfront. Not sanitize it. I want to hear if she grappled with it. But no. Not a peep. It is like the narrator is an outsider looking in and it reads as such. We moved here, my mom painted in a school...

If a parent never really loved you and is psychologically abusive("come to the circus with us or else, you can just pack up and leave the house...") why stick to him (aside from the money)? Why append a last name that doesn't mean anything except being unloved? I really would not begrudge her for doing so, in fact, I would respect her for that, after all, she is entitled to it as his kid. She should fight for it. But you don't read that. I actually wish she got a portion of his estate as the ultimate third finger but NO this is not that kind of factual story. No figures or anything, completely rambling journal accounts. This clean account sounds like a dishonest shill.

If you want to find a resolution that he may not be a crappy human being to absolve you of his meanness in life, sure, you might find it in the pages. The only good part was the conversation with Jobs at his deathbed. Even then, the stepmom goes to say, I don't believe in deathbed ramblings. What?! Who are these crappy human beings and why is she STILL around them? What I wanted to hear and read is if she has really moved on out of the clutches of his meanness, etc. You don't read that. Why? So where's the closure here. Jeez, appending his name to hers. Is that it?

If you want a dramatic memoir with all the angst and resolution, just read Cheryl Strayed's Wild, by god, that's some M*F*ng writing and a stupendous life redemption.
Profile Image for Hibah  Kamal-Grayson.
24 reviews6 followers
October 3, 2018
3.5 stars. Fairly well-written and interesting, but I'm rounding down based on the wave of relief I felt upon parting ways with the narrator.

It's hard to chronicle meanness without letting it infect you, and I kept detecting a faint trace of Steve Jobs's selfish cunning in the narrator herself: in her prose, her inner life, and even her actions. The narrative arc -- wobbly throughout the book -- sort of collapses at the end. I felt as though the author tried to quickly and clumsily stitch together two diverging narratives with wildly different assessments of her father's character.

I don't ask that narratives be tied up neatly with a bow. (And in fact, the confusion around her father's fundamental character is pretty telling in and of itself.) But this book left a bitter taste in my mouth, as if unkindness and cunning beget unkindness and cunning, instead of occasionally begetting warmth, kindness, and growth.
Profile Image for Mary Deacon.
40 reviews52 followers
December 6, 2018
This is memoir by Steve Job's daughter. She talks about growing up in California and what it was like growing up the daughter of the Apple founder. I would definitely recommend this book.
Profile Image for Ginger Bensman.
Author 2 books59 followers
October 27, 2018
Small Fry is the story of a child longing to belong, a child constantly vigilant, looking to discern from the adults in her life what she needs to be and do, to be seen and valued and loved. And getting the signals right is no small task when both her parents are (emotionally) children, still desperately searching to find love and security and the missing pieces of themselves. Her father’s outsized success, casual cruelty, and warped understanding about what it is to be a parent, lead to sharply painful scenes, but there are luminous moments too, when he almost gets it right. This is a beautifully written memoir—sweet and sad and ultimately uplifting.
Profile Image for britt_brooke.
1,288 reviews96 followers
March 3, 2019
After recently reading Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography, it seemed only right to hear another side. Lisa is his first child whom he vehemently denied until a paternity test proved otherwise. With an unstable mother and a severely judgmental father who was often cruel, Lisa had a tumultuous upbringing. Sure, some of this could be written off as privileged white girl problems, but I just don’t think that’s fair nor accurate. Every story deserves to be told and heard. Shitty childhoods can come in all forms.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,612 reviews2,580 followers
February 12, 2019
(3.5) What was it like to have Steve Jobs as your dad? That question has already drawn many to Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s debut memoir. You don’t need to have any particular interest in Apple computers or in technology in general to read and enjoy this; all you need is curiosity about how families work, especially amid complications like disputed paternity, half-siblings, and the peculiarities of behaviour common to geniuses and madmen.

Apart from brief flashbacks to her earliest years and a few scenes surrounding her father’s death, Brennan-Jobs focuses on her life between ages seven and 18, as she bounced between her parents and tried desperately to secure her aloof father’s love and approval. From the start, Jobs distanced himself from Lisa, even refusing to acknowledge her as his child until a DNA test proved it. So she lived with her mother, Chrisann Brennan, an artist who worked multiple jobs but still struggled to make ends meet. Though it also played out in the Silicon Valley of California, this hardscrabble mother-and-daughter life couldn’t have been more different from the opulent lifestyle Lisa glimpsed when she stayed at her father’s mansions.

Jobs’s behaviour was contradictory and unpredictable. Sometimes he went out of his way to help Lisa, like when he wrote a fulsome recommendation to get her into a desirable school. But more often he treated her with disdain. When she lived with him and his wife Laurene, he refused to fix the heating in Lisa’s room and relied on her for free babysitting after her half-siblings were born. He asked her inappropriately sexual questions as she became a teenager. Lisa always felt she had to earn her father’s love. His all-or-nothing outlook was meant to induce guilt: Unless she missed school for a week to go to Hawaii with him and Laurene, she wasn’t really part of their family; if she went back to her mother, she was out of the family.

Of course, Lisa wasn’t the only victim of Jobs’s wanton cruelty. Woe to any waitress who got his order wrong! But there’s something especially heartbreaking about a little girl reaching out for proof that her father loves her, only to be rejected. One telling example concerns the early Apple model called “Lisa.” As a child, when she asked multiple times if he’d named the computer after her, he said no. Only late in his life – when asked by Bono, no less – did Jobs finally admit in her hearing that the Lisa was indeed named for her. “We all made allowances for his eccentricities, the ways he attacked other people, because he was also brilliant, and sometimes kind and insightful,” she writes. Yet “I felt he’d crush me if I let him.”

I was impressed by the volume and texture of the memories here. The dialogue must all be invented, but the sheer number of scenes and the detail in which Brennan-Jobs remembers them are astonishing. It would take me many hours of concentration to remember even a handful of similar scenes from my years in schooling. You get the feeling that the author was fiercely observant. She notes that very quality in herself at one point: “I was not only in this pitiable situation, but watching it; I was both the one hurt and the narrator of the hurt.”

Brennan-Jobs’s recreation of her child and teenage perspective is generally convincing, and she uses apt everyday metaphors to describe her relationships: “my father far away, glinting like a shard of mirror; my mother so close and urgent” and “an unmistakable emptiness I felt near him, a feeling of a vast loneliness—the stair behind the kitchen with no light, the wind coming through from the rickety balcony.”

In the end, there are perhaps no great revelations or transformations in the book; it is simply a record of life through one person’s eyes, and thus it’s not surprising that other members of the family have disputed her version of events. A memoir is pure subjectivity, but as you are reading – if it’s written as well as this one – you can’t help but go along with every word. I would be interested to read a biography of Jobs to see how the picture of him compares, but mostly I valued Small Fry as an illuminating account of a difficult father–daughter relationship, no matter who or how famous its subject.

Originally published at Nudge.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,183 reviews73 followers
April 3, 2022
4 Stars for Small Fry (audiobook) by Lisa Brennan-Jobs read by Eileen Stevens.

This is the autobiography of the daughter of Steve Jobs. He never married her mother and her paternity was in question until she received a DNA test that proved that she was his daughter. That starts the story of Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Her story goes on for 3 decades where she attempts to find her father’s love. This journey is a roller coaster of emotions as she upsets her mother as she is trying to please her father.
44 reviews
August 28, 2018
This book really makes you understand that people are complicated. Just because they are famous, or intelligent, etc., doesn't mean that success is going to translate into all aspects of their lives.
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