“Songs are only half the story.” So writes Jewel Kinkaid in her lengthy memoir just released this fall. In her memoir, she not only shares the story of her life, but also lessons learned from her experiences and her music. Shortly after I purchased my copy, I also received an email wherein I learned that Jewel self-produced both her memoir and its accompanying CD, foremost so that she could focus on being a mom but also so that Jewel could stay true to her vision for her “Never Broken” project.
How does one reduce a 400-page memoir to a one-page review? For starters, Never Broken reveals how much of a struggle relationships have been for Jewel. Her mom left the family when Jewel was only eight, leaving Jewel with an eternal need for approval from others. Then her dad became alcoholic and abusive, a fact that fans might have picked up on with even Jewel’s first CD. As Jewel’s career began to take off, her mom renewed involvement with Jewel’s life. Initially, this delighted Jewel, who desired to have what every child does—the pure and true love of their parents. Eventually though, Jewel realized to her great sorrow that her mom had only been using Jewel for her money. While Jewel’s relationship with her dad has improved over the years, the dysfunction of her family ultimately robbed Jewel of a much-needed stability. Years into her marriage, Jewel found herself still unable to accept her own beauty. She continued to feel driven by a need to be perfect in order to receive love, a feeling that led to her becoming a single mom. Never Broken is full of sadness, but also full of a gritty determination of a much-applauded singer to find love simply in who she is.
Never Broken also reveals how difficult to climb to fame has been for Jewel. Living on a homestead in Alaska, she learned to yodel young, and joined her family’s entertainment act. For a time, it seemed she had a happy life. Behind the scenes, however, there was instability and trauma. In middle school, friendships didn’t come easy for Jewel. She smelled of the farm. She didn’t know about shaving her legs. No one taught her about bras or periods. By high school, her parents had divorced. Jewel often had to work to feed herself. She was diagnosed with dyslexia. At times, she found herself without a place to stay. Even as an adult, the challenges continued to pile up. She began having panic attacks. At a time when her rent was due, Jewel lost her job after refusing to accept a proposition from her boss. Earning money as a singer in cafes proved hard, because all the door money went to the owners not the singers who brought in the customers. Never Broken is a compelling read because of how bumpy the ride to fame was for Jewel, as well as inspiring due to how Jewel has continually fought to remain true to her values.
Some readers have criticized Jewel for being overly preachy in the latter part of Never Broken. I would not disagree with them. Indeed, I wish at times Jewel had shared more details about her musical career choices, instead of rambling about lessons learned. Also, I have to note that some of her beliefs are alien to mine, belonging somewhat to new age philosophies. At the same time, I admire her intentions to encourage those facing challenges. Indeed, Jewel even asks fans to post why they are never broken with the hash tag #NeverBroken and to find a community to rally with them.
Jewel is one of my favorite singers. From the first time, I heard her hit song “I’m Sensitive” on her first album I felt as if she were describing me. After a string of heartaches, I found solace in repeatedly playing, “Goodbye Alice in Wonderland”. Jewel’s songs and her story, as different as our backgrounds are, speak to me at a heart level. Fans of Jewel will want to read Never Broken.
My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.
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