Book of the Month: Just Kids by Patti Smith

Arlene Mateo Photography

Arlene Mateo Photography

What do you get when a punk rock legend and prolific poet writes a memoir? Literary magic. Just Kids by Patti Smith tells a gritty story of NYC in the 60s and 70s. Smith is homeless when she first meets Robert Mapplethorpe, and there begins the tale of their creative journey. Smith’s charismatic words will glide you along their love story—when all they had was art, records, and coffee. This book will have you questioning the things you value, and remind you more than ever why, each and every day, you choose to write. 

Their story of artist and muse is insightful and entertaining, and leaves you with plenty to think about. Smith lives for art. She celebrates it in her music, poetry, and paintings. At first, she questions whether or not she is an artist, whether or not she deserves a seat at the table. She learns to accept her work.
It’s not easy to commit to your passion. In fact, to be a writer one would argue you have to be a little crazy. Smith’s memoir offers words of gold that will encourage you to keep going. If you are in between jobs or discovering your purpose or revising your pages or struggling to balance it all—no matter where these words find you—let this story add a little perspective.

If you are still not convinced, check out these quotes from Smith’s memoir, perhaps it’s the last push you need to give Just Kids a read.

1. Smith, just like us, questioned her art and what it all meant.

“I craved honesty, yet found dishonesty in myself…Often I’d sit and try to write and draw, but all of the manic activity in the streets, coupled with the Vietnam War, made my efforts seem meaningless…In trying to join them I felt overwhelmed by yet another form of bureaucracy. I wondered if anything I did mattered” (Smith 65).

 2. Smith looked to Mapplethorpe for guidance, perspective, and support.

“Robert had little patience with these introspective bouts of mine. He never seemed to question his artistic drives, and by his example, I understood that what matters is the work…To achieve within the work a perfect balance of faith and execution. From this state of mind comes a light, life-charged” (Smith 65).

 3. Smith sought inspiration from the artists of her past.

“Picasso didn’t crawl in a shell when his beloved Basque country was bombed. He reacted by creating a masterpiece in Guernica to remind us of the injustices committed to people. When I had extra money I’d go to the Museum of Modern Art and sit before Guernica, spending long hours considering the fallen horse…Then I’d get back to work” (Smith 65).

Smith paints the life of an artist in color and texture. It serves as an anchor. It opens the window to a moment in time, and does it with style and conviction. 
Just Kids is a vivid artist’s tale, one you should not go without.

Smith, Patti. Just Kids. Harper Collins Books, 2010.

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