Personal interest

Lisa Brennan-Jobs paints damning portrait of life with her father, Apple founder Steve Jobs, but is forgiving of him

Lisa Brennan-Jobs. (Brigitte Lacombe / Grove Press)

Some of the details Lisa Brennan-Jobs reveals about her world-renowned late father in her forthcoming memoir Small Fry may seem downright unforgivable. From the beginning of Lisa’s life, Steve Jobs marginalized her. He denied paternity after Lisa was born and eventually had to be compelled by the local government to take a paternity test, which proved he indeed was her father. The slights, insults and marginalizing continued throughout her life, right up until the moment Steve Jobs was on his deathbed in 2011, as cancer was about to claim his life.

Not long after she was born to Chrisann Brennan, the future tech titan’s high school sweetheart, in 1978 — Steve helped choose the name Lisa — he denied he was her father and refused to pay child support. Chrisann was left to work menial jobs and collect government support. Steve was eventually ordered by a court to take a paternity test and subsequently began paying child support. He later confessed he had denied paternity because he wasn’t ready to be a father.

Money, and Steve wielding it over Lisa and Chrisann throughout their lives, is a major theme of the book, according to The New York Times, which reviewed an advance copy. At one point, Chrisann found a house that she loved and wanted to buy. Steve, upon seeing it, agreed it was a nice home and went ahead and bought it himself — and then proceeded to move into it with his new wife at the time, Laurene Powell Jobs. In 2005, it was reported that Chrisann wrote Steve a two-page letter asking him for $25 million as compensation for his “dishonorable behavior” along with another $5 million for Lisa. Steve, who was worth an estimated $3 billion at the time, ignored the request, Chrisann revealed in her 2013 memoir.

Not all of his financial manipulations involved such expensive purchases. In fact, he could be flat-out petty. Lisa writes of a time that he used his financial power to intimidate and manipulate in a mundane setting. “Sometimes he decided not to pay for things at the very last minute, walking out of restaurants without paying the bill.”

The list goes on and, to a degree, is enumerated in the Times profile of Lisa. Her book, which will reveal even more, is due out on September 4. Even as Steve lay dying, he could unleash the most scathing of criticisms. Lisa recalls him having told her she smelled “like a toilet” in his final days. She maintains there was no malice behind it — he was showing her “honesty,” she told the Times. “Just to be clear,” she added on Twitter, “I did, in fact, smell like a toilet.”

Why this story now? And why is she so forgiving of her father whose legacy in the tech world is that of one of the world’s greatest inventors, but in the lives of those closest to him, could be seen as disappointing? She delves into all of that in her interview with the Times. And for more on their relationship, watch the 2015 video about them below.

Read the full story at The New York Times. 

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