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Jewel's 'Rags-to-Riches' Story Is Far from a Fairy Tale

"My life has been setback after setback after setback," Jewel said. "And it's been about learning how can I stand up and not just survive, but how do I thrive?



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    Jewel at the US Grant on September 25, 2014 in San Diego, California.

    Most people know Jewel's rags-to-riches story -- growing up on an Alaskan homestead, getting discovered as a homeless teen in a San Diego coffee shop, going platinum on her debut album, "Pieces of You," a folksy anthem in the grunge era.

    But as she reveals in her new memoir, "Never Broken," and a companion album, "Picking Up the Pieces," her story didn't have a fairy-tale ending.

    "I've always been very transparent as an artist," said the 41-year-old singer. "I've been known throughout my career to share a lot. But I think people will be quite surprised by what is in the book. Honestly, I think the biggest setbacks I faced were after I became famous."

    Difficult and sometimes painful family relationships led her to become mostly independent as a teenager, crafting her skills in bars and coffee shops.

    During her time on the coffee shop circuit, Jewel connected with local musicians like Steve Poltz, with whom she co-wrote her megahit, "You Were Meant for Me."

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    "I think that anybody that reads the book won't consider this a salacious book, but it is incredibly forthright," Jewel said.

    She writes that her father was physically and verbally abusive to her and her brothers, which she attributes to his drinking and his own personal trauma. They have since reconciled.

    "My dad gave me permission. ... My dad grew up in an abusive household. My dad became abusive. ... What are cycles of abuse and what kinds of conversations can we have in America about emotional patterns," she asked.

    She also details how her mother took control of her finances and subsequently led her into debt despite selling millions of albums, according to the book. The two stopped talking in 2003. The final chapters of the book describe her romance with champion rodeo cowboy Ty Murray, who she married in 2008 and had a son with, and their divorce last year.

    "My life has been setback after setback after setback," Jewel said. "And it's been about learning how can I stand up and not just survive, but how do I thrive? How do I become more loving, more yielding, more whole, instead of letting this damage me and make me more brittle and more unable to experience love and trust."

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    On the album, she dives deep into those relationships on songs like "My Father's Daughter," a duet with Dolly Parton, and "Family Tree," about learning to live with her family's legacy.

    "My mom isn't a villain," Jewel said. "My dad isn't a villain. People get some things right and people get some things wrong. And the song for me, `Family Tree,' is about looking at that. I think the line is, `To take the fruit and choose the seeds you want to scatter into the wind."'

    While it's not a happily ever after kind of book, Jewel closes the memoir with inspirational guidelines that helped her recover and rebuild her life.

    "I am not unique in my pain and my struggles," Jewel said. "If the things that I learned, and it took me 40 years and a lot of pain to learn, can help anybody else in a shorter time, it would be very worthwhile."