' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Steve Jobs, Mona Simpson, and Paternity: It's all in the family

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steve Jobs, Mona Simpson, and Paternity: It's all in the family

How history repeats itself in families in so many ways. In the family of Steve Jobs, we know that he was adopted, and though he found his natural family, he also "abandoned" his own daughter, Lisa, who was the daughter of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Chris-Ann Brennan, since high school.

    Lisa Brennan-Jobs
    Lisa Brennan-Jobs: Look like dad much?
    Job's father, Abdulfattah "John" Jandali, did not marry his pregnant girlfriend in grad school, Joanne Schieble, because her father was opposed her marrying an Arab, and so Jobs ended up being given up for adoption. When Jobs was 23, his­­ on again/off again girlfriend Brennan gave birth to a daughter, Lisa in 1978. Jobs denied paternity for two years--while the mother and daughter were on welfare--even going so far as to swear in court documents that he could not be Lisa's father because he was "sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child." (He has three other children with his wife of twenty years.)

    Oddly enough, Jobs gave Lisa's name to an Apple computer that was invented the year she was born, though Jobs and Apple Inc. claimed that the name was an acronym for Local Integrated Software Architecture. Right. (The computer, by the way, was a flop. Only teckkies have ever heard of it.) Lisa, the daughter, did not have an easy time growing up, as she and her mother moved constantly. Not until 1986--when Lisa was eight--did Lisa finally met her famous father. Although awkward initially, the relationship got better as time went on. He sent her to Harvard where she realized a flair for writing--like her famous aunt, read on. Despite that daddy was paying for her ivy-league eduction, apparently she published a biting profile about growing up with an absent father in the The Harvard Advocate that I have not been able to find.
    Now 33, Lisa is a journalist and magazine writer. In the February 2008 issue of Vogue, she touched on her “illegitimate” childhood growing up with her mother:
    "In California, my mother had raised me mostly alone. We didn’t have many things, but she is warm and we were happy. We moved a lot. We rented. My father was rich and renowned and later, as I got to know him, went on vacations with him, and then lived with him for a few years, I saw another, more glamorous world. The two sides didn’t mix, and I missed one when I had the other."
    The story goes on how she for a while found a rich, luxurious life living with a wealthy pedigreed Florentine man. “I’d found the beauty and ease [my mother and I] had dreamed of for so long,” she wrote.

    Like father, like son ... John Jandali and Steve
    Jandali and Jobs: No question they are father and son
    As for Steve Jobs's fractured relationship with his biological father, Jandali did reach out to his son via email in the last year before the technology genius died last week, contrary to the report we had the other day. According to  an interview in the Wall Street Journal, he said he sent simple emails, wishing Jobs a "Happy Birthday," or "I hope your health is improving," and that a couple of times Jobs replied with a simple "thank you." The last one, he said, arrived six weeks before Jobs died. The whole story takes on the air of a Greek tragedy; Jandali reached out to this son through the filter of email; Jobs responded in kind, but barely. And the whole surrender to adoption of the boy who would become Steve Jobs seemed unnecessary. It was the worst of times.

    Jandali was pursuing his doctorate in political science at the University of Wisconsin when he became involved with fellow grad student, Joanne Schieble. It was the Fifties, girls did what their families dictated. Her forceful father forbade the marriage, and Jobs was given up for adoption. Soon after her father died, the couple did wed, and upon his graduation, they moved to Syria where Jandali hoped to work in foreign service. But by then the government was in transition, disrupting his plans to become a diplomat. Instead, he said, he managed an oil refinery. Joanne was unhappy in Syria and moved back to Green Bay, where she gave birth to their second child, Mona, who later took the name of her stepfather. Jobs's natural/birth mother goes by the name Joanne Simpson. Jandali is still quite vigorouos, and at 80, was made general manager of the Boomtown casino outside Reno, Nev. last year. He presides over a staff of around 450 casino workers, a job that certainly calls on diplomatic shills.

    Jandali added that he learned of his son's death when a stranger called him on the phone. Previously I said I didn't know who found whom, but it was Jobs who began the search for his biological mother in his teens and was ready to give up when he finally discovered at age 27 that he had a younger sister. As Jobs told a columnist for Indie Wire in an interview:
    “I was adopted. I love my adoptive parents; they were great. But I wanted to find out who my real parents were. So I started searching. I looked for years and I never could discover who my biological parents were. Then I was given the name of a doctor in San Francisco who I was told might have some knowledge. I thought this would be my last chance. So I went to see him. He was retired and I talked to him at his home. He said he was very sorry but he couldn’t help me. He knew nothing about my birth or adoption. I left thinking he was my last hope, I might as well give up. Everything turned into dead ends. I’d done everything I could.

    “A few weeks later I got a letter from the doctor telling me the story of how I was adopted. It turns out this doctor had delivered me, but he had promised my biological parents he’d never tell who they were. In those days that was how things were done. But after meeting me, he felt he had to tell me. However, the doctor had died just as he finished writing the letter to me. The letter was found on his desk."
    mona simpson
    Mona Simpson, another look-alike
    Jobs said that the executors of the doctor’s estate had sent the letter to him, and since he was well-known at that time they had no problem finding him."

    Jobs was thrilled to learn that his sister was an artist because he liked to think of himself like an artist too, in a different field. Simpson once introduced Jobs to the audience at a literary event, and they remained close. He also had a relationship with their mother, Joanne Schieble, but apparently everyone was so estranged from Jandali, who had remarried and has other grown children, that he was not told who his son was until 2005.

    Interestingly, Simpson mined her family background for her novels. The Lost Father is the title of one of the books, and that is also a theme of Anywhere but Here. Although she apparently bristled when interviewers noticed the similarities between real life and her fiction, as Maureen Dowd writes this morning in her column, one of her books is based on a character called A Regular Guy, an "emotionally disconnected fruit-loving Silicon Valley biotech entrepreneur named Tom Owens. He lives in a barely furnished mansion once owned by a copper-baron, as Jobs did; he losses control of his company to suits, as Jobs did; he tried to decide whom to marry by asking his friends which of his two girl friends was more beautiful, as Jobs did;" and yes, Tom Owens even forms a belated relationship with an out-of-wedlock daughter. Case closed.

    As for coincidences, Mona is married to a man named Richard Appel; he was once a  writer for the Simpsons. You couldn't make this up. --lorraine
    See also: Like father, like son...John Jandali and Steve Jobs
    and Single fathers today stay to raise their children

    Jobs adoptive parents are Paul and Clara Jobs. Although Joanne, his first/birth mother, had requested her son be adopted by college graduates, the first couple lined up did not take the boy; but Paul, a high school dropout and a machinist, and his wife, Clara, an accountant, promised to send him to college. Jobs dropped out of Reed College after one semester, and "dropped in" on classes for the next 18 months. As a note over language, I couldn't help noticing how Jobs referred to his, er, real parents in the interview. And interestingly, I have noticed an appreciable lack of use of the word "birth" mother or "birth" father in the stories. Me thinks in this case "biological" is best. Your thoughts?


    1. I think any lable other than mother is disgusting.

    2. What has been during me nuts about Steve Jobs' death is the exploitation of it for the pro-life agenda. I blogged about. Here's a link: http://familypreservation.blogspot.com/2011/10/let-steve-jobs-rest-in-peace.html I will cross link to this post on mine.

    3. I READ YOUR BLOG A FEW minutes ago, Mirah, and I agree with you completely.

    4. Something that's noted in the media but not commented on is that Jobs' parents married after he was given up. Through my involvement in adoption, I've noticed that 20 to 25 percent of couples who gave up children later married each other. In most of these cases, the couples remained married for many years.

      A pox on those who told the young couples that marriage would never work and they should give up their babies and go their separate ways.

    5. The whole thing is nuts. First, it really isn't a new or different tale - just one with some famous faces. My daughter was supposed to have been adopted by educated people, that was the only thing they let me have any say in.... she was adopted by a 3rd or 4th grade drop out and a soldier - barely with high school. Nothing on the soldier. The thing is, it amazes me that people in the mainstream are totally unaware that this is normal. Definitely insane.

    6. Jane said, "A pox on those who told the young couples that marriage would never work and they should give up their babies and go their separate ways."

      Couldn't have said it better myself.

    7. These days adopting can require serious amounts of money money so I am guessing adoptive parents are on average, wealthier, more educated and older than they were 50+ years ago.

    8. Added to the blog this morning:

      The whole story takes on the air of a Greek tragedy; Jandali reached out to his son through the filter of email; Jobs responded in kind, but barely. And the whole surrender of the boy who would become Jobs to adoption seemed unnecessary. It was the worst of times.

    9. I'm so glad to hear that Steve Jobs' father reached out to him! Makes my day. :)

      "I think any label other than mother is disgusting."

      I agree, now, but growing up, my aparents (and the whole of society) indoctrinated me with such terms as "chosen" and "biological parents". I even thanked a birth mother friend for "giving the baby a better life." Talk about brainwashing!! (God bless her, she didn't smack me, she loved me more and explained the hole in every mother's heart for her child - until then, I thought I was the only one with the hole.)

      It is reprehensible to think that people (who know better, some who don't) insist that mothers "forget" about the baby they bore (perhaps a free lobotomy with every relinquishment would help), and insist to adoptees that they are nothing more than a shiftable commodity, one that should adapt to any surroundings, as "your biological mother was just the woman who gave birth to you." Maybe a two-for-one lobotomy? Right there in the delivery room?

      Thanks to the mothers here who do so much to help me feel connected in this world. Jane and Lorraine and all the others - you are so precious.

    10. If I'm not mistaken when watching some of the coverage of Jobs death I saw a quote by him about thinking it was all about nuture but changing his mind and giving credit to nature.

    11. Lorraine wrote:"And the whole surrender of the boy who would become Jobs to adoption seemed unnecessary. It was the worst of times."

      I totally agree with that. And for the whole pro-life community who is just jumping up and down with glee, I don't think abortion had anything to do with this story.

      I, too, noticed that Steve referred to his natural parents as his "real" parents though I had also read another interview where he said that his APs were his "real" parents. Adoption is full of so many confusing and conflicting feelings. What one thinks at one time isn't what s/he thinks at another.

      It never ceases to amaze me when an adoptee abandons his own child. As an adoptee I felt much less likely to do something like that. And it is obvious that Steve Jobs was highly affected by being adopted as shown by his searching when still a teen.

    12. Robin, I agree with you (now) - how could we adoptees ever part with our child? But, when I was in college and my aparents' "biological" child got pregnant at 19, I advised her to place him for adoption. Thank God she didn't listen to me!!

      But, similar to children of divorce who end up divorcing (much pain and child abandonment there, too - how could they continue that tradition?), we are just indoctrinated to think it can be the "better" choice. [Full disclosure: my first marriage ended in divorce, so I know of which I speak.]

    13. Interesting take on the dark side of Jobs. I'm sure more stories are yet to come. The stories are rife in the industry.


    14. " Maybe a two-for-one lobotomy? Right there in the delivery room?"

      Ha ha ha ha ha!

      And they can use the kool-aid as the anesthesia!

    15. We know that jobs has dominated in the technology industry and he had made money out of his passion in making apple computers. But that doesn't guarantee family happiness. He made a mistake which is similar to what his father had done in the past. Sad to say that family relationship affects the emotional aspect of a child.

    16. OK I have to ask - is Jane Edwards also Jane Elizabeth Edwards ? Author of What Memoirs of Adopted Daughter's Tell Mothers ?

    17. Struggling Fulcrum,

      Yes, I am the same Jane Elizabeth Edwards who wrote "What Memoirs of Adopted Daughters Tell Mothers."

      Thanks for asking.

    18. Jane -

      Excellent article. Insightful, written well and kind of like the old Cliff Notes, allowing me to gain a little wisdom without reading all of those authors and their books (although I need to - life seems to be exponentially busier than lets say 10 years ago). Thank you for sharing.

    19. Let Steve Jobs rest in peace?

      Doesn't look like he let the "living human beings
      rest" why should he rest Mirah, he created hell
      on earth for many with exploitation, humiliation
      and denial. Created his image before his death.

    20. Did Steve's birth mother ever reached out to him before and during his dying years? I'm more interested now in his birth mother since all I hear is Mona Simpson and Steve Jobs met up with birth mother but no details as to what was said or as a result of their meeting with birth mother. Did she ever say sorry to Steve? Are they on good terms?

      At least the father since finding out in 2005, wrote him emails to see how he's doing and Steve Jobs responded "Thank you".

    21. Also I like to know the adopted parents who loved and cared for Steve Jobs, did they become wealthy as a result of Jobs' success?



    COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

    We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

    We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.