The sad life and hard times of the queen of mopey folk. Fifteen-year-old Ian became a cause celebre in the 1960s as the composer and performer of "Society's Child," a folk-pop song that daringly addressed an interracial romance between teenagers. In calm, lucid prose, she charts the bumpy path of her life and career since then as an embattled lesbian singer-songwriter with, apparently, worse luck than the Chicago Cubs. Precociously intelligent, Ian felt alienated from her peers, and this early unhappiness seems to have colored many of her subsequent experiences. As she struggled to advance her career in an often cruel and superficial industry, she was repeatedly cheated and mismanaged, never quite breaking through to superstardom despite such hits as the 1975 wallflower anthem "At Seventeen." In her account, the author sees herself as a perpetual victim: molested by the family dentist as a child, drugged by a stranger on the streets of New York, sexually manipulated by her therapist and various girlfriends, cheated by business managers, persecuted by the IRS, beaten and threatened with death by a psychotic husband. Serious health problems also repeatedly sidelined Ian, including an incapacitating bout of chronic fatigue syndrome. All of which would suggest she is an epic downer to hang out with. As a narrator, though, she proves excellent company, providing fascinating insights into the craft of songwriting and amusing anecdotes about carousing with the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. The personal material is equally gripping, in a soap-operatic way, rife with betrayals, sexual intrigue, danger and madness. As evidenced by many of her lyrics (and second career writingscience-fiction stories), Ian is a natural prose stylist with a real knack for pacing and the telling detail. What might have been a dreary catalog of woe is instead a juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business. Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.
Society’s Child is the hugely readable autobiography of an artist who has lived through success and crushing hardship but knows that ‘you can’t sing and cry at the same time.’ Sing on!”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Painfully candid . . . hard to put down.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“A juicily entertaining look at an unusual life in show business."Downbeat yet oddly rollicking and compulsively readable.”
"Deftly written, the life experiences described by Janis Ian in this engaging memoir gives us a peek into the anatomy of a brilliant songwriter'
"One of life's greatest pleasures is a book that you simply can't put down—one that transports you from start to finish as it elevates, enlightens, engages and entertains. Janis Ian gives you all this in Society's Child."
"A splendid retelling of a major life! Janis Ian is a survivor, and her book is an illuminating and inspiring read."
"Janis Ian is at once larger-than-life and excruciatingly human. In Society's Child she describes great triumphs, devastating betrayals of every kind, and her extraordinary strength of spirit shines through every page."
"A book of surpassing clarity and truth."
—Orson Scott Card, author of Ender's Game
"I laughed, I ached, I wept, I cheered...and ultimately was totally taken by Janis Ian's honest and deeply moving autobiography: an insightful and courageous personal account of her musical, spiritual and emotional journey."
—Noel Paul Stookey, of Peter, Paul & Mary