Just Kids

By Patti Smith

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Harper Collins, 2010

Genres: Nonfiction, autobiography, biography, memoir

ISBN: 9780066211312

Audience: Adults

Number of pages: 279

Settings: Mostly New York City – Manhattan & Brooklyn – but also Paris & Charleville, France & Camden, NJ

Time period: The bulk of the story is set between 1969 – 1978.

Description:  Patti Smith describes her life growing up in NJ and aspirations to become an artist.  At a young age she moves to New York City where she meets a kindred soul, Robert Mapplethorpe.  The heart of this book is about their journey together as friends, artists, and lovers.  They support one another and each other’s work until they are both firmly set on their own artistic pathways.

Illustrations:  The book includes a variety of black and white photographs as well as some drawings done by both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Moderately paced and easy to read

Characterization: The story is told in first person through Patti Smith.  While the book includes a wide range of characters – including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Allen Ginsberg – the story focuses upon Patti and Robert.

Frame: The title sets the frame for the story.  Patti and Robert meet when they are both only nineteen years old.

Story line: While the primary focus is on Patti and Robert’s relationship, the underlying story focuses upon art and the journey involved with becoming well known artists.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Smith, Patti.

Mapplethorpe, Robert.

Chelsea Hotel — Biography.

Women rock musicians — United States — Biography.

Photographers — United States — Biography.

Women poets — 20th century — Biography.

Poets, American — 20th century — Biography.

Artists — New York (State) — New York — Biography.

Musicians — New York (State) — New York — Biography.

New York (N.Y.) — Biography.

Possibly similar works:

Life by Keith Richards

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Personal notes:  I thought this was an amazing book – beautiful and tender.  Patti captures and highlights moments in time which bring the reader into the heart of her relationship with Robert, as well as herself.  While I found this book easy to read, I did not want to read it quickly.  I enjoyed savoring it, especially as I got closer to the end.  And while I’ve never considered myself a Patti Smith fan (although I really enjoy her album Horses), I have a much stronger interest in her and Robert’s work from having read this book.


Patti Smith’s website

The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation website

This book won the 2010 National Book Award for nonfiction.



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