Book CornerFeaturedNews

Book Review: Family Values: Kurt, Courtney & Frances Bean

Release Date: June 25th, 2024

Kurt Cobain was not prepared for fame. He was even less prepared for the public scrutiny he would face in 1992. Cobain and his wife Courtney Love were preparing for the birth of Frances Bean Cobain. What should’ve been a blessing quickly turned into a nightmare when a damaging Vanity Fair piece about Love by Lynn Hirschberg was published. The article paints Love as an addict, immoral, and an opportunist. Even worse, Hirschberg implies Love shot up heroin while pregnant.

Though Love denied the allegations (she later confirmed it was true in 2015), it was too late. A litany of rumors about the couple being unfit parents and Frances Bean being born a drug addict followed. This led to the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services getting involved. Suddenly, Cobain and Love found themselves fighting for custody of their newborn daughter only days after her arrival. The two had to prove they were responsible parents. So, when Spin proposed a cover story about the new family, they couldn’t pass it up. Family Values: Kurt, Courtney & Frances Bean by GUZMAN not only features rare photographs from the famous photoshoot, it also proves why it was essential in cleaning up their image.

The book includes all photos from the session with many of them being published for the first time. The husband-and-wife team behind the camera, known collectively as GUZMAN, recount their memories of the shoot, including the warm welcome from Love who offered them guava pie, taking in the disorganized chaos of their home, and the ease they felt around the couple. They share behind-the-scenes insight about the photoshoot, including the original idea of framing the couple in gender-normative roles, and how certain pictures came together. Of course, the importance of the shoot wasn’t lost on GUZMAN.

GUZMAN and writer Michael Azerrad, who introduces the book, both argue how this wasn’t another run-of-the-mill photoshoot to sell records and magazines. It was a chance for Cobain and Love to control their own narrative. Tired of having others tell their story, the rockstar couple used this opportunity to speak their truth; to prove they were good parents. And present themselves in a better light after the Vanity Fair article. The photos give us a rare peek at the couple behind closed doors showing them to be like other first-time parents: loving, caring, and obsessing over their child.

Whereas others were interested in capturing the drama of the couple, GUZMAN wanted to portray the intimate side people rarely saw. The photos show the couple hanging out in bed, Cobain doting over a tiny Frances Bean, Love soothing a fussy France, Cobain lounging in his silk pajamas, and the couple goofing around together. We also get a glimpse of their home life with shots of Cobain’s’ toy monkey collection, random clothes strewn about the house, and Frances’ room. Looking at the pictures it’s hard to deny they had anything but love for this child. Cobain’s face expresses pure joy when holding Frances. Love is a proud mama as she coos over her. The couple seems madly in love and at peace. Sadly, it wouldn’t last long but at least for a moment, they’re serene and happy.

Family Values: Kurt, Courtney & Frances Bean is an insightful look at this now iconic photoshoot. It provides important context that’s easy to forget, especially 32 years since its publication. Additionally, it portrays Cobain and Love in a different light. Here, Love is not volatile, manipulative, or a basket case. Instead, she’s a loving mother who wants nothing but the best for her child. Similarly, Cobain, who was often painted as moody, depressed, and overall negative, is shown as happy, at ease, and a doting father. Of course, we know the trouble that was to come for the couple. But this isn’t about drug problems, marital struggles, and domestic disputes. It’s about two people taking back their story and fighting for their family bliss.

Related Images:

Book Review: Family Values: Kurt, Courtney, & Frances Bean
  • Our Rating
User Review
0 (0 votes)

Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.