Resources for the Discussion of Just Kids by Patti Smith


On January 10th, we will be discussing Patti Smith’s, Just Kids, where she writes about her artist studded life in NYC during the late 60s and into the 70s and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.


Here, she poses with Robert wearing the Persian necklace:

“The necklace was passed back and forth through the years.

Ownership was based on who needed it the most.” (p. 51)

Here are some discussion questions provided by Scribd:

(July 18, 2011 Prepared by Jennifer Beever, Marketing Consultant and CMO for Hire,

  1. Patti Smith’s father told her she was not attractive enough to marry; Robert Mapelthorpe said he was a parent pleaser making ‘girl art´ against his family’s wishes. How did these affect their relationship, their lives as artists?
  2. Patti Smith served as nurse, caretaker, and money lender to male artists and supported some female artists like Janis Joplin. Who helped Patti Smith?
  3. Victor Hugo described Arthur Rimbaud as “an infant Shakespeare” when in his teens. He was known as a libertine and restless soul, traveling extensively before his death from cancer less at 37. What was the significance of Patti Smith’s love of Rimbaud? Of Bob Dylan?
  4. At the start of the book the nurses were mean to Patti Smith when she gave birth. At the end when she was hiring another guitarist for her band she commented that the men did not like a woman-led band. How did these incidents reflect the times Patti Smith lived in? How were women treated throughout the book?
  5. Patti Smith felt her fame came too quickly and Robert Mapelthorpe couldn’t get his quickly enough. Why the different attitudes?
  6. The book says that Andy Warhol had defaced Madonna and Christ in his art and Robert Mapelthorpe followed in his footsteps. Who else has continued this since the seventies?
  7. There was a lot of loss in the book:  suicide, death, burglary. How did that affect the artists?
  8. Patti Smith writes that people assumed she was a speed freak and a lesbian because of the way she looked. Do you think there was any attempt to re-write or edit history in the book?
  9. Patti Smith felt that Robert Mapelthorpe saw God as universal love when she met him, but the battle between Catholic good and evil took over. Robert gave Patti a Joan of Arc medal on his the opening of his first Polaroid photo show. How did religion affect their relationship and their lives?
  10. What happened to the Chelsea hotel? Does it still exist?
  11. Do you think it’s true (per Patti Smith’s mother’s ‘wives tale´) – that what you do on New Year’s Day sets the tone for the rest of the year?


After a condescending remark from Fred Hughes, Patti cuts her hair and gains more notority becauseof it: “I looked at myself in the mirror over the sink. I realized I hadn’t cut my hair any different since I was a teenager.  . . I studied (the rock mags) for a while and took up the scissors, machete-ing my way out of the folk era. . . . Someone at Max’s asked me if I was androgynous.” (p. 140)


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