This is another review of another book I picked up a couple week’s ago at a used book store for $5 – Society’s Child: my autobiography by Janis Ian. Now here’s a strange little twist…I follow Janis on Facebook, but I couldn’t tell you why or when I started. I just do. I don’t own any of her albums, nor have I ever followed her career. She’s just been kinda there…and I do enjoy her posts. So, when I saw this book, I guessed it was about time I got to know her a little better.
You know the story…little Jewish girl from New York makes it big and leads a fabulous, glamorous life filled with the very best of everything? Well, this ain’t that story! This is the story of a young girl from a family where her father was blacklisted during the McCarthy era forcing him to find a new job and move his family every two years. It’s the story of an awkward 15 year old that wrote her first hit song ‘Society’s Child’ in 1966 and had to leave a stage midway through the song to the yells of “Nigger lover!”
What should have been an amazing life, was nothing short of tragic. Only once before have I ever read an autobiography and thought to myself, “Why is this person still alive?”, and that was Danny Bonaduce’s book. Despite her overwhelming success in Japan and Australia, behind the scenes Janis was used and abused by a series of friends, lovers and colleagues. And then in 1975 came her Grammy winning song…At Seventeen…a song that brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. I lived the pain in that song…
By the age of 37, Janis Ian had been robbed, drugged, physically abused by her husband and eventually lost everything she owned to the IRS when her accountant (who was stealing from her) failed to inform her for 7 years about several IRS inquiries. And yet, she endured. This tiny, fragile little woman chose to live on.
This 360 page autobiography published in 2008 is a real page turner. There is honestly never a dull moment throughout, making it hard to put down when it was well past my bedtime because I had to work the next day. (And for those who are concerned about whether this review is on-topic for a Beatles blog, Janis does mention the Beatles twice.)
If you can either beg, borrow or buy a copy of Janis’ story, please do so. It’s going to teach you that everything that shines, isn’t gold, but sometimes it’s not money and fame that matter. And for that reason…
I rate this book, 4 out of 4 Beatles!