In Memoriam: Jan Kerouac

February, 1952 - June 5, 1996

I first learned about Jan Kerouac about 15 years ago when I was reading the Kerouac biographies. Several years later, I read her book, Baby Driver :A Novel about Myself and I've always wanted to meet her after that because I found out we had a lot of the same hassles growing up and I wanted to compare notes. Unfortunately, I never got the chance. Jan died Wednesday, June 5, of kidney failure in Albuquerque. She had been on dialysis for the last five years.

I'm not sure why, but Jack could never face up to the fact that he was Jan's father. He only saw her on two occasions. The first was when she was about nine years old and her mother met with Jack and some lawyer about having a blood test to determine if Jack was really Jan's father. This was long before the days of DNA testing, so the only way they could tell is by blood typing. The test turned out positive, so Jack ended up having to pay child support.

Jan was about 16 years old the second time she saw Jack. Somehow, she found out where he lived and she and her boyfriend paid him a visit. Jack was busy watching The Bevery Hillbillies and gulping down a fifth of whiskey. They couldn't stay long because Jack's mother got all upset. Jan was still a teen-ager when her father died in 1969.

Janet had to spend most of her childhood in poverty, because her mother was never able to connect up with the right husband or the right job. About the time she became a teen-ager, the Haight-Ashbury thing happened and she got all hungup on drugs. Her mother finally had to put her in the state mental institution and after she got sprung from that, she got into so much trouble that she and her boyfriend had to split to Mexico.

After things cooled down, she returned to the United States and had various odd jobs, including being a prostitute. She finally settled down with her mother in Washington and wrote the book Baby Driver, which was published in 1981. In 1988, she wrote another book called Trainsong, about her travels after Mexico. Like her father, Jan had an itch for being on the road.

Her last struggles have been trying to get her father's body moved and to place her father's archives in a museum or library, where others would be able to study them. Jan may have been born into the generation of the Hippie, but the troubles she had with life have defenatly qualified her to be a member of the Beat Generation.

Copyright © 1996, Colin Pringle