Just Kids by Patti Smith

Much has been written about the New York City art scene of the late sixties, but little with such a poetic and subtly critical eye as in Patti Smith’s just-published memoir Just Kids. The fact that the legendary poet, artist, musician, and punkrock icon chose to write an autobiography that focuses on her early adulthood, when she was struggling not only to solidify her artistic intentions but also to find enough food to eat each day—a far cry from when she would eventually be recognized as a true visionary and the “godmother of punk”— says something about her unfalteringly modest ego and allows the reader to unfold into the creative discoveries of post-Flower Child New York with her curious eye. Smith’s story centers upon her deep friendship and romance with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, the photographer of some of her most iconic albums covers, who she stumbles upon in the street one day and with whom she embarks on the ultimate bohemian adventure of art and uninhibited inspiration. Mapplethorpe would become seduced by flash and edginess of the remains of Andy Warhol’s Factory and the artists that lingered in its wake, and through Smith’s quiet absorption of the energy around her we see an illuminating underbelly of a city filled with talent striving to take hold and to define itself. Either as touching glimpse into the humble roots of a great musician or as a unique perspective on one of the most inspiring decades New York has seen (Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan have cameos, among others), this memoir is a beautiful work of art.