Although LaToya Jackson’s autobiography was published in 1991, there are facts here that are relevant today in light of Michael Jackson’s death. Since writing this book, however, she has basically denied that the information found here was not from her but from her supposed abusive husband, Jack Gordon. However, it is definitely worth the read because it sheds light on the dynamics of a famous and controversial family.
The book is written in a simple and personal style. It begins with a scene of the patriarch of the family, Joseph Jackson, waking up his five sons from a dead sleep at an hour way past midnight, because he wanted them to perform in front of a guest. LaToya and her older sister Rebbie share a sofa bed and she can hear through the wall the rustlings of her sleepy brothers as they climb out of their beds: “It didn’t matter that it was way past midnight, my father wanted his sons Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael up, dressed and ready to perform (5)” Jackson goes on to tell the story of how her mother and father met, although she admits that she doesn’t know much because her mother has never told the children about the courtship. She reveals that her mother, Katherine, was shy and pretty and she had polio as a young girl. Joseph Jackson, with his green eyes, paid attention to her and swept her off her feet. Joseph became a professional boxer after leaving school and earned a reputation for being fearless. He also loved music.
LaToya states that when she was born, there were already four little children born to the Jackson couple: Rebbie, Jackie, Tito and Jermaine. She also says that her father never came to the hospital to hold any of his newborns and remained aloof towards them for most of their growing up (9). Joseph and Katherine raised the children in a very strict environment, never allowing them to socialize with peers outside the home. Therefore, the only persons that the children were around were each other: “He banished the outside world from our home until our home became our world (10).” This control was exerted over the children, even into their late teens and early 20's. As a result, three of LaToya’s siblings married as soon as they turned 18, if only to be able to leave home.
When LaToya was still a little girl, she was severely physically abused by her father: “I was six when I got the beating of my life.” Her father became enraged when she brought her report card home. It wasn’t because she didn’t do well, she did. However, her teacher held her back because she was too quiet in class. LaToya describes her beating: “Then he took off his belt and reached for the switch employed so often around our house. As the metal buckle and the whiplike branch seared my skin, I cried: “No! Stop! Please!” But my father was beyond hearing me....his boxer fists pummeled my face and body, and I cried until my eyes were swollen nearly shut. But I do study, I thought. Why are you beating me?”
Jackson’s adult life was all but stifled in the Jackson family home. She states that of all the Jackson siblings, she was the quiet one and the one that was closest to her mother. She was her mother’s only confidante.
In her twenties, Latoya describes her feelings of not being able to have a normal social life or even being able to further her career. She felt that her mother sabotaged her efforts to acquire success with her own singing career because she did not want LaToya to leave the home. Her mother, although seemingly “protective” of her daughter, later takes this to a whole new level of control and dysfunction. Jackson describes an episode when she had already left the family roost and had set herself up in a penthouse in Manhatten. She was scheduled to go to her studio for a rehearsal and then meet her parents later. When she steps out of the limo, she is grabbed by a “bodyguard” hired by her parents to kidnap her and take her “home”. Jack Gordon, as she describes in her book, was able to fend him off and take LaToya back to the penthouse that they shared. Jackson also describes at least one more kidnaping attempt by her parents.
In this book, Jackson also states that posing in Playboy magazine was HER decision, not Gordon’s or anyone else’s. She writes that it was an artistic endeavor and felt nothing was wrong with it. She writes this in a most honest and unhindered style of expression.
Although Jackson has since refuted most of the information in this autobiography and has accused Gordon (who is now dead) of years of physical abuse, it is worth the read anyway. It is up to the reader to “read between the lines” and to determine whether there is any truth in this book. One thing is for sure, though, the Jackson family drama will never be boring or obsolete.