Sinead O'Connor has written a memoir, and as Amanda Hess writes for the New York Times, it "recasts the story of her career from her perspective." What kind of recasting is needed? A pretty major one, in Hess' view. "The mainstream narrative is that a pop star ripped up a photo of the pope on Saturday Night Live and derailed her life. What if the opposite were true?" In an interview, O'Connor (who still answers to that name, though she has converted to Islam and taken the name Shuhada Sadaqat) tells Hess that's exactly right: That the pop fame of "Nothing Compares 2 U" rankled the singer, who viewed herself as a "protest-singing punk." Ripping up the photo was the recalibration she felt she needed. But the story of how she ended up with that photo is deeply personal.
In Rememberings, O'Connor recounts years of physical abuse at her mother's hands. "I won the prize in kindergarten for being able to curl up into the smallest ball, but my teacher never knew why I could do it so well," she writes. When she was 18, her mother died, and on that very same day she removed the one image that hung in her mom's bedroom: Yes, that photo of Pope John Paul II. She held on to the photo, "waiting for the right moment to destroy it," writes Hess. The backlash that came from tearing it into pieces ended up being a great thing—getting her off the mainstream pop track that she had no interest in being on. Read Hess' full piece (or the memoir itself) for much more, including how Prince, who penned "Nothing Compares 2 U" subjected her to a crazy and abusive night in his Hollywood mansion. (Read more Sinead O'Connor stories.)