‘You’re getting nothing’: Steve Jobs’ daughter wrote a heartbreaking memoir about their often brutal relationship

Lisa Brennan-Jobs.

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Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
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Wikimedia Commons

  • Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of the former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, published an excerpt from her coming book that deals with her difficult relationship with her father.
  • The chapter, carried by Vanity Fair, covers some heartbreaking incidents, such as his denying paternity and refusing child-support payouts.
  • Brennan-Jobs outlines her sense of alienation from her father and her childhood wish of having a normal relationship with him.
  • The new, rare portrait of Jobs adds more nuance to portrayals of him as a visionary CEO, showing that he could be cruel in his personal life.

Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the daughter of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, has published an excerpt from her coming memoir, “Small Fry” – and it contains heartbreaking details about her difficult relationship with her father.

This is the first time Brennan-Jobs has written in depth about her father, who initially denied paternity and refused to pay child-support payments to her mother, Chrisann Brennan. Jobs died in 2011 at 56 of complications from pancreatic cancer.

The excerpt, published in Vanity Fair’s September issue, opens with a literary rendering of Jobs’ final days, presided over by a Buddhist monk who instructed a visiting Lisa to “touch his feet.” Jobs converted to Buddhism at a young age.

Brennan-Jobs describes visiting her sick father every weekend and trying to fit in around her stepmother, Laurene Powell, and her three half-siblings.

Laurene Powell and Steve Jobs.

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Laurene Powell and Steve Jobs.
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Diana Walker / Contour by Getty Images

“I had given up on the possibility of a grand reconciliation, the kind in the movies, but I kept coming anyway,” she wrote.

The excerpt also deals with Jobs turning up to his daughter’s birth in 1978 and denying paternity until the district attorney of San Mateo County forced him to take a test and to produce child support.

In one telling detail, Brennan-Jobs outlines how Jobs’ lawyers insisted on finalizing child-support payouts and other payments on December 8, 1980. Four days later, Apple went public and Jobs became immensely wealthy.

She also recalled believing that her father replaced his Porsche every time it had a scratch and asking whether she could have one when he got rid of it.

“You’re not getting anything,” she said he responded. “You understand? Nothing. You’re getting nothing.”

Brennan-Jobs added that her father had not been “generous with money, or food, or words.”

The excerpt is made with Brennan-Jobs’ childhood sense that she didn’t have a normal relationship with her father and her simply wanting to be closer to him.

“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,” she wrote. “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.”

She uses the Apple Lisa, the failed precursor to the Macintosh, as a metaphor for her attempts to belong to her father.

Apple Lisa.

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Apple Lisa.
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Flickr/Frank Fujimoto

“Was it named after me?” she asked her father at one point.

“Nope. Sorry kid,” he responded.

But in a sign of their changing relationship, she recalls a later episode in which Jobs invited her on holiday with the whole family – and took them all to visit a friend of his, the U2 frontman Bono.

Bono repeated Lisa’s question, asking Jobs whether he named the Lisa after his daughter. This time, he responded, “Yup.”

You can read the full extract at Vanity Fair here.