One of our summer guests highly recommended the book “Small Fry,” a powerful memoir by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, the oft-neglected daughter of Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs. So I plunged right in. “Small Fry” is a sad tale with many more downs than ups as Jobs was, no other word works, a complete jerk when relating to his daughter and, for that matter, to many other people. Brennan-Jobs, who spent her early years living between two very different home environments in the 1980s and 1990s in California, never really succeeded in her quest to be loved by her demanding, manipulative, self-centered father. 

Happily, a small reconciliation occurred on Jobs death bed: “I wish I could go back,” he said, “I wish I could change it. But it’s too late. What can I do now? It’s just too late….I’m so sorry….I owe you one.” 

I followed up “Small Fry” by reading “Steve Jobs,” a comprehensive biography by Walter Isaacson. Jobs comes off better in this book, because Isaacson focuses much more on Jobs creative marketing genius than on his many personal failings, although it could hardly be termed a puff piece. 

Off and running on my father-doesn’t-always-know-best journey, I next slogged through “Educated: A Memoir,” the award-winning book by Tara Westover. Tara’s parents were not quite out of the Ozzie and Harriet mold. They were survivalists living in the mountains of Idaho who didn’t believe in public schooling or public anything; they never relied on medical help, even when the mother was seriously hurt in a car accident. The father “ran” a scrap metal yard and forced all his children to work there, even though mishaps and injuries were commonplace. Tara didn’t even get a birth certificate until she was nine years old. 

Anxious to better herself and learn about the world, Tara purchased text books to prepare for taking the ACT. She did well enough to gain admission to Brigham Young University; from there, she went on to earn a doctorate in intellectual history at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. She had become estranged from her parents before she wrote “Educated.” 

A few people, including some of Tara’s siblings, claim that the book painted 

an unfair picture of their upbringing, but the events detailed and the abuse described rang true and specific and constant throughout. I totally believe her harrowing tale. 

A glutton for tales of paternal punishment, I turned next to “Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist,” by Eli Saslow, about Derek Black’s life journey. Derek Black’s father, a friend of KKK leader David Duke, was a white nationalist with a rabid radio following. Indeed, David Duke was Derek’s godfather. As a young man Derek took up the white nationalist cause and developed his own radio following. His warped worldview began to take a turn when he enrolled in New College of Florida, a liberal arts institution in Sarasota. A student at New College discovered Derek’s white nationalist secret life, and the resulting ostracism, combined with the loving patience of some college friends, eventually led Derek to renounce white nationalism. 

Derek Black later wrote a few opinion pieces for the New York Times, one of which noted that Trump’s presidential campaign was taken right out of the white nationalist playbook; another noted that Donald Trump’s comments about the tragic situation in Charlottesville had “legitimized racist ideology.” 

In need of some comic relief, I recently discovered a story about a reality “Christian” TV family with their own show, “Chrisley Knows Best.” Todd, a real estate developer, and his wife Julie Chrisley and their five smiling kids live the life of the rich in Atlanta, but some minor problems seem to have cropped up in recent years. Such as a bankruptcy declaration; and rumors of a multi-million dollar debt; and a twelve-count indictment for financial shenanigans; and, icing on the cake, accusations by one of the daughters that Todd is blackmailing her about a sex tape. I guess it’s not surprising, given the national ethos, that the show won the Peoples Choice Reality TV Award. In fact, Todd Chrisley seems well positioned to run for president with his way well-paved by the current occupant of the White House. 

For now, though, I must take a break from reading about bad fathers and take time to admire the genuinely fine fathers in our midst, the above characters notwithstanding. Then maybe I’ll take a long hot bath. 

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future ‘Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected]. 

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