Book Club

Just Kids

The cover caught my eye. 

A few years ago I was leaving a bookstore and in the middle of a sea of memoirs was the most nostalgic cover art I’ve ever seen. As I reached for the black book, I noticed the faded polaroid image on the front cover of two people who seemed to be madly in love. I felt comforted. I felt like someone else might feel the way I do. Someone else might miss someone too. Someone else doesn’t want to let beautiful memories go. 

The book was Just Kids by Patti Smith.

I recently re-read the memoir after adding the new illustrated edition to my collection and got lost in her world all over again.

Just Kids is the story about two humans lusting after the magic of life. Although many people waltz in and out of the book like Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol, writer and visual artist Patti Smith and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe are the two strong spirits that make you feel at home. Both craving innovation, art, raw experiences, love and the (sometimes painful) mystery of the unknown, Patti and Robert’s detailed ups and downs in New York City during the late sixties and seventies prove that with some grit and unrelenting desire, you can make your wildest dreams come true. 

I was born scattered and stymied, surrounded by unfinished songs and abandoned poems. I would go as far as I could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations…when you hit a wall, just kick it in.

Patti Smith

One of the most potent takeaways from the book was the idea of experiencing a great love. A love that makes you wonder. A love that breaks boundaries. A love that changes you. A love that pushes you. A love you know you might lose. I know what Patti meant when she wrote, “…his songs became our songs, the expression of young love.” There’s always that first person who seems to move you. They’ll make you laugh, read your mind, hold your hand, twist your heart and you’ll never get that back again. It’s like you’re living for yourself until that person comes along. Suddenly two beings become one. If it’s cold and snowing, he’ll give you his coat – love in its purest form.

I thought to myself that he contained a whole universe that I had yet to know.

Patti Smith on Robert Mapplethorpe

This memoir resonated with me in many ways aside from love. Patti’s determination as an artist and a ruthless creator of words helped me renew and expand my own creative abilities. It truly shifted the way I perceive the world.

…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 changed. 

Patti Smith

We’re all so capable of much more than we realize. We have such depths inside us and stories that need and want to be told. Sometimes, the ghosts of our past need to be honored. Like a rushing river, Patti truly lets her insides flow and seems to never look back when she pours her heart out on paper. I want to be more like this. I wish others were more like this too. 

Just Kids introduced me to the brilliance of artist Robert Mapplethorpe. If it weren’t for his work ethic, many of Patti’s early creations would never see the light of day. Although equal in drive, many times Robert would push Patti to continue to create, write, draw and perform. 

Patti allows you to feel your feelings. Just Kids explores the human mind, psyche and heart that’s on the brink of breaking. I know what that feels like. Many of us know what that feels like. Some sentences in the book offer an unexpected emotional release, leaving you lighter yet introspective.  

The train ride to Paris was uneventful. I realized at one point I was crying. 

Patti Smith

Just Kids is a beautiful storm of love and loss while fighting the monsters of adversity. The story offers hope. It’s a human type of hope. A hope that maybe someday we’ll be great, we’ll be happy and we’ll be free. 

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