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Looking at Joni From Another Side Print-ready version

by Liz Braun
Toronto Sun
April 8, 1997


Oh, gosh - it's spring, and among the huggy, feely, smiley-face stories this week is the joyous reunion of Joni Mitchell and her daughter. In case you were off the planet last weekend, Canada's fey little songbird has discovered the daughter she gave up some 30 years ago.

Wow. Shake your bangs and light up.

Actually, the daughter - Kilauren Gibb - found Mitchell, but never mind. In the midst of the media feeding frenzy surrounding this fairy tale ending, some of the more cynical among us can't help feeling that there is something really, really wrong with this story. Maybe it's just us, but Mitchell's rags-to-riches story and her heartbreaking need to give up her child for adoption (about 20 minutes before she became famous) is a tale with holes in it big enough to drive an 18 wheeler right on through.

We'd ask how old that baby was when Mitchell gave her up, but it's not our place to speculate on someone else's motives. Someone else's narcissism or ambition we would happily speculate on, but never mind. According to British writer Brian Hinton, Mitchell tells a touching tale about this period in her life and depicts herself as a sexual innocent lost in a harsh and judgmental society.


We'd be much happier with this poor-and-pregnant story of heart-wrenching loss were this not the same Joni Mitchell who so made up for lost time that Rolling Stone magazine once published a handy map to the many famous men she'd had her way with.

But never mind again. This mother and child reunion story is really bothersome for other reasons. For starters, it offers a good programming reason to play even more Cancon-fulfilling, twee, affected, irritating music. Next on the bothersome front is the celebrity angle. Joni Mitchell is a big star; someone else put in 32 years of loving and child-rearing and doing all the hard work and it all ends up being a story about ...


Excuse me? If I were the couple who raised Kilauren Gibb, I'd be really pissed right now. Also feeling cheesed off, one would speculate, are all the mothers who calmly turned to theft or prostitution or whatever it took, rather than give up a child.


And then there are those mothers (and children) whose reunions have been fraught with harsh reality. Or whose reunions have never happened. Or whose reunions didn't involve statements to the press or having a concept album written about anybody.

For Kilauren Gibb, who spent five years looking for her mother and then had to fax in her adoption papers and wait to get the nod from Mitchell's people, how can this be anything but a lose/lose situation? The worst-case scenario is that it won't work out. The best-case scenario is that everything will work out fine, which leaves Gibb and her three-year-old son free to do nothing but avoid star-seekers and advantage-takers for the rest of their lives.

Joni Mitchell, coy and mysterious song references aside, managed to keep this love child out of the news for many, many years. Why, having found her daughter, didn't she keep it just as quiet for the sake of all involved?

Just wondering, of course.

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Added to Library on January 9, 2000. (3706)

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