Why Did Steve Jobs Reject His Arab Father?

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Yesterday I heard Walter Isaacson talking about his biography of the last Steve Jobs on Terry Gross’s NPR show Fresh Air.

The story of Jobs’s parenthood is amazing. He was given up for adoption by his American mother, Joanne Schieble, and his Syrian-American father, Abdulfattah “John” Jandali, born in Homs. He was raised by Paul and Clara Jobs in Mountain View, California.

In his 20s, Jobs sought to find his biological parents. By reaching out to the doctor listed on his birth certificate, he was able to find Schieble. And Schieble introduced him to his sister, Mona Simpson, the novelist.

Walter Isaacson said that Jobs was pleased to discover that his sister was a great artist. Simpson told Jobs who his father was, and Jobs realized that he had met Jandali. Because Jandali ran a restaurant in Silicon Valley.

Says this account online:

“When I was looking for my biological mother, obviously I was looking for my biological father at the same time. I learned a little bit about him, and I didn’t like what I learned,” he told Walter Isaacson.

Jobs decided he did not want to see his father again. On the radio yesterday, Isaacson said that Jobs described Jandali as fat and balding. Terry Gross did not press the point: Why was Jobs averse to meeting his father?

No doubt Steve Jobs was an aesthetic monster. That taste/perfectionism/snobbery guided his achievement.

But I have to wonder whether he did not also share the conventional social prejudice against Arab-Americans, even in our “high” culture, the attitude reflected by novelist Erica Jong, who once titled a chapter of a book, Arabs and Other Animals. I hope that Mona Simpson, who shares Jobs’s Arab-American background, will write about this issue some day.

P.S. Jobs’s adoptive mother was an Armenian-American.

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