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Lisa Brennan-Jobs Opens Up About Her Strained Relationship With Her Father

As a father Steve Jobs was just two difficult sides of the same difficult coin, and 'Small Fry' may be our best look at it yet.

Flickr Kazuhiro Shiozawa

Steve Jobs was a complicated man. As an entrepreneur, Jobs was widely regarded as a brilliant and innovative trailblazer in the tech industry thanks to his prominent role in the founding of Apple. But while few have questioned Jobs’ abilities, many of his co-workers, friends, and even relatives made it abundantly clear that he was a really difficult guy to be around. And now, as his semi-estranged daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs begins sharing excerpts from her memoir Small Fry, fans and critics of Jobs’ legacy are getting a rare glimpse of the man, not as an industry tycoon, but as a dad.

Jobs initially denied that Lisa was his actual daughter and left his then partner Chrisann Brennan to raise her alone, claiming that he was sterile. After being forced to go to court regarding the matter in 1980, a paternity test proved that Lisa was in fact Jobs’ child.

In fact, Jobs denied that he named the first Macintosh computer Lisa after his daughter until some years later. He didn’t say that to Lisa’s face of course but only revealed the information during an interview with Bono of all people, something Lisa talks about in the excerpt.

As one can imagine, this has left Brennan-Jobs with a mountain of confusing feelings about her dad. Small Fry frames him both as someone who she totally adored, but who also left a little girl to get lost in delusions about how present he could actually be as a father.

“I assigned mystical qualities to his zipper teeth, his tattered jeans, his flat palms, as if these were not only different from other fathers’ but better, and now that he was in my life, even if it was only once a month, I had not waited in vain. I would be better off than children who’d had fathers all along,” Brennan-Jobs writes.

Ultimately, for all of his brilliance, Jobs was still a deeply flawed individual. He even managed to tell his daughter that she smelled “like a toilet” as he was literally dying from cancer in 2011. Yes, he did reimagine what we all thought was possible, but he was often cruel, egotistical, and manipulative in the process. Naturally, those qualities don’t lend themselves well to fatherhood.

“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,” She wrote. “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.”

Small Fry is set to hit shelves on September 4.