Nothing Compares to Sinead O’Connor’s Autobiography

Review by Naima Brown

Ok, I know…the title of this review is a little on the nose, but it’s so true. I’ve truly never read anything quite like it.

I should back up and say that I’m not a massive autobiography fan – especially not celebrity autobiographies. It takes a lot for me to want to go on what I assume will be a ride through nostalgia-town with stops at the name-drop cafe and the humble-brag motel – it’s just not my cup of tea.

But Sinead O’Connor is hardly a celebrity. As she so heart-wrenchingly recounts in her book, Rememberings, Sinead spent more time on the outs, a pariah in her industry, the subject of ridicule and scorn than she did being celebrated.

If you’re a devotee like I am – you would have followed the last few years of her public life with a mix of pride and concern. She’s shown us that she can still sing with the inimitable hair-raising voice that bewitched us all so many years ago. But, she also shared her wounds and trauma for all to see – overshared, really – and those of us who love her watched in sadness as she publicized her calls for help, wondering how someone who’s given us so much could end up so alone and vulnerable (something which we here at Elli are very much aware is the fate of so many women when they reach Sinead’s age, 56, regardless of the success they may have had in their younger years).

So when I saw that she’d finally written her own story, I couldn’t wait to devour it. I didn’t so much read this book as I experienced it – creating my own little mixed-media interactive Sinead O’Connor retrospective. When she writes about what was happening in the lead-up to her infamous burning of the pope’s photograph on Saturday Night Live in 1992 – and what was going through her mind as she set it aflame – it propelled me to re-watch the original footage numerous times, each time her bravery and unwavering sense of purpose shone through a little more.

And then, of course, there’s the music. Sinead writes about the origins of her songs with such tenderness and honesty it’s like hearing about the birth of her children – which she also writes about. There are songs and albums with such incredible stories behind them that I’d never even heard of – and I thought I’d heard them all. There was much bookmarking and pausing-of-reading to log on to Spotify and listen, captivated by her voice and talent anew.

And because she is a musician who was briefly also a pop-star and climbed to the top of the tree only to hit every possible branch on the fall back to earth – she does have some pretty rollicking stories to tell. But when she drops names (Anthony Keides, Prince, and Peter Gabriel to entice you…) or reminisces on the zeitgeist of the 80’s and 90’s music scene – there’s no ego, it’s just pure storytelling, you may as well be sat next to her on the couch with a cuppa.

Image from Wikipedia

But what stood out to me the most – especially in the context of Elli and the concept of ageing with purpose and meaning – is Sinead’s sense of relief and pride that she’s made it to fifty-six. She almost didn’t – a lot of people she loved didn’t – and to say more would do injustice to her own penetrating and relentlessly honest writing about her lowest lows and hardest losses (and she is, as it turns out, as good a writer of her memoirs as she is of songs; her writing is clear, poetic, very, very funny).

She doesn’t yearn for her youth. She writes about younger versions of herself with great tenderness and love – and forgiveness – but she is finding stillness as she ages. And it’s a stillness she is fiercely protecting. She writes about her agoraphobia and the idiosyncrasies that punctuate her days now, and how she navigates the long swathes of time between live performance – which is still her greatest joy.

Image from

She is so unapologetic in herself as to make me acutely aware of the parts of me that I still feel I have to apologize for (that’s for another essay) – and doesn’t feel she needs to explain her contradictions. She’s a devoted Muslim who feels safe and energized by the hijab, but swears like a sailor and writes unabashedly about the men she’d like to “jump on like a monkey.” She paints scriptures with the devotion of a nun, and still loves to scream like one of the original rockers that she is – she is a weed smoking theologian, a grandmother who can’t cook and doesn’t care, a hot-tempered middle-finger-giver and patient caregiver of all who wander up her driveway…she is wholly, fully herself.

Sinead O’Connor is still creating music. She is waiting for this pandemic to be over so she can perform for us again – and I for one will be first in line.

But for now, her book is her greatest offering. Read it, savour it, absorb it – and then listen back to all the songs and watch all the videos – and then maybe if enough of us celebrate who Sinead is today, she will be launched into the celebrity that she always deserved.