Love, Janis

Laura Joplin

A Publishers Weekly review described Chapter 2 (“Our Ancestors”) of Laura Joplin’s biography of her sister, singer Janis Joplin, as being “yawn-inducing,” but praised Laura’s thorough chronicling—her own recollections and reflections, interviews, Janis’ letters home, photos—of Janis’ angst-ridden adolescence and her quick, tumultuous rise to fame as one of the icons of the ’60s’ rock scene. What the reviewer seems to have missed is that by including a chapter on the Joplin family history (such as the section on the indomitable Sidneh Brown, whose husband and 2-year-old were killed by Indians during the French and Indian War), Laura places Janis into a bigger historical context than the ’60s and at the same time makes the reader wonder if Janis’ social-frontier-busting behavior might not have a hereditary Joplin family component to it. “The story of my ancestors’ lives is the saga of American pioneers, exploring and sometimes conquering what was seen as the frontier of their day,” Laura writes. One comes away from Love, Janis (reissued now with extra letters and documents) understanding that Janis, too, was one of those American pioneers.