Audie Award, Narration by the Author or Authors, 2013
Grammy Award Winner, Best Spoken Word Album, 2013
Booklist Top 10 Biography Audiobooks
Janis Ian was catapulted into the spotlight in 1966 at the age of 15, when her soul-wrenching song "Society's Child" became a hit. An intimate portrait of an interracial relationship, "Society's Child" climbed the charts despite the fact that many radio stations across the country refused to play it because of its controversial subject matter. But this was only the beginning of a long and illustrious career.
In this fascinating memoir of her more than 40 years in the music business, Ian chronicles how she did drugs with Jimi Hendrix, went shopping for Grammy clothes with Janis Joplin, and sang with Mel Tormé, all the while never ceasing to create unforgettable music.
In 1975, Ian's legendary "At Seventeen" earned two Grammy awards and five nominations. Her next two albums brought her worldwide platinum hits. But after seven albums in as many years, she made a conscious decision to walk away from the often grueling music business. During this period, she struggled through a difficult marriage, which ended with her then husband's attempt to destroy her, and a sudden illness that very nearly cost her her life. The hiatus from music lasted for close to a decade until, in 1993, Ian returned with the release of the Grammy-nominated Breaking Silence. Now, as she moves gracefully into her fifth decade as a recording artist and writer, Ian continues to draw large audiences around the globe.
In Society's Child, Janis Ian provides a relentlessly honest account of the successes and failures - and the hopes and dreams - of an extraordinary life.
©2008 Janis Ian (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Each chapter in this mesmerizing memoir begins with an evocative lyric read and sung by Ian, who transports listeners back in time with both words and music." (Booklist)
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
Celebrity autobiographies always seem better to me if they are narrated by the celebrity. In Society's Child, Janis Ian reads her own story. While she is not a practiced or dramatic narrator, hearing the book in her own voice increases the listener's personal experience of the events Ian has gone through. As an added bonus, each time the text refers to or discusses a particular song of hers (including at the beginning of each chapter) Ms Ian plays the guitar and sings at least a few bars of the song.
She has led an interesting, and not always very happy, life. Born in 1951 during the McCarthy Commie-hunting days, she had to move with her family from place to place in the New York/New Jersey area because her parents' left-leaning politics made them targets of the FBI and similar organizations, and her father had to keep changing teaching jobs. When she was 13, she wrote "Society's Child," and was touring with the song by the time she was 15. At many of those performances she was baited and threatened by people in the audience, accused of being a "n____-lover". Hard to take when you're 15.
Janis Ian went through a number of travails, many of which seem to have been the result of youth and a too-trusting nature. Several times in her adult life, she ended up close to penniless, and had to scramble to make a living. At the age of 27 she married a Portuguese man who turned out to be both emotionally and physically abusive. Getting out of that marriage while dealing with the IRS over taxes that were never paid by her tax accountant was slow and grueling. Eventually she found the woman who has been her partner for many years, and life has become brighter and fulfilling.
Of course not all of the book is dark. There are many interesting stories, including her meetings and friendships with Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, and the legendary acting coach Stella Adler; and the background and writing of "At Seventeen." And she discusses the happy times in her life.
A number of times in this book, Ian says that she often did not ask for help or even discuss many of her problems because those matters were too personal and she was very uncomfortable discussing personal things. After a number of years in therapy, she was able in her autobiography to reveal and discuss highly personal matters, and she was able to read them in this recording. In the end, what you get from this book is the story of a strong, brave woman who has been through a lot and has managed to reach a balance in her life. Well worth a listen.
Yes, I think Janis Ian has a meaningful story to tell, and I would recommend it to anyone.
I liked the way she began each chapter and punctuated explanations of her songwriting tactics with snatches of the song she was writing.
I like the way she sang songs with guitar and sometimes piano accompaniment instead of just reading the lyrics.
I had many reactions to this book. I laughed and was almost moved to gtears at times, and I was angry.
Like Janis, I wanted to be a singer, but I'm glad I'm not after reading her memoir and that of other singers. However, I enjoy living a performer's life vicariously through such books as Society's Child.
Janice Ian, as always, an inspiration! What a beautiful way to explore and share her many gifts and her message of hope, perseverance, joy, vulnerability and the gift that is life. At the same time the book shares her memories of the 60's and 70's and some nuggets of wisdom and integrity.
What I found was a delightful composition of moments that moved me emotionally, satisfied my intellect, and gave me a great deal with which I could identify. Suffice it to say that I have been for many decades an admirer. Knowing the woman through her writing and her own voice is deeply satisfying. She helped me learn the truth at seventeen.
It was such a pleasure! I wasn't born until 1970 and my mother was Janis Joplin not Janis Ian. After catching a performance of hers on a SNL rerun I ordered a CD as quick as I could. She was gorgeous and unique and it was love at first listen. Society's Child was an intimate portrait for me.
A fantastic story- much more than another performer made-it. I had no idea her life was so incredible, so much to overcome, what a wonderful person!
Her first hit at 14, continued productivity into her 60's. And all that happened to her.
Each chapter began with her singing part of a song that worked with that chapter. And she read the book as if she wrote it... oh, yes, she did!!!
I bought the book on sale thinking it sounded "okay." Other than "At 17" I couldn't have named any of her songs before reading the book. What a delightful surprise! Her life is amazing; she is amazing! And because she read the book, it was even more alive. I loved the song clips sung at the beginning of the chapters. A must "read" (listen).
I was a fan of Janis Ian for many years without the knowledge of her trials and tribulations. Ms. Ian's autobiography is an eye opener for those of us who think a few hit records makes for a cozy life. Her voice made for easy listening and her music throughout was a wonderful touch. I am a big fan of this book and the author.
I'll be blunt. Ms. Ian's ego is huge. She spends an uncomfortable amount of time telling us how intelligent she is. Her narration is just painfully bad. Her story is downright boring. Sorry, I can't recommend this one.
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