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Patty's Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America
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Patty's Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  101 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
It was a story so bizarre it defied belief: in April 1974, twenty-year-old newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst robbed a San Francisco bank in the company of members of the Symbionese Liberation Army—who had kidnapped her a mere nine weeks earlier. But the robbery—and the spectacular 1976 trial that ended with Hearst’s criminal conviction—seemed oddly appropriate to the troub ...more
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by University Of Chicago Press (first published October 15th 2008)
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Jun 20, 2016 rated it liked it
I just finished The Girls a fictionalized version of the Mason Murders and then inhaled Patty's Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America an accounting of the Patty Hearst case. The author did a great job of reanalyzing the case through a modern lens. Was Patty a victim, a survivor, an heiress, a feminist, a revolutionary, or all of the above. My next book is going to be Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.

I am however left with a question. Why am I and many others so fascinat
Margot Friedman
Dec 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is a really interesting look back and analysis of the sensational trial that marked the end of the "permissive" 1960s and set the stage for the rise of Reagan conservatism in the 1980s. Graebner lays out a compelling case that America could not accept a psycholocially-coerced Patty Hearst and had to view her as acting from free will (even after being kidnapped, raped, trapped in a closet, etc.) With rich detail (news accounts, editorials, testimony from the trial, etc.), Graebner shows how ...more
Sep 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Hmmm, how to make the story of Patty Hearst and the SLA as interesting as a listing in the TV Guide? One could start with a synopsis of the bones of the story, and follow it up with a remarkably dry myth-and-symbol 'analysis' of the imaginings of Patty/Tania vis-a-vis American culture. Color me extremely disappointed. The best books I've read to date about these events are novels: Christopher Sorrentino's "Trance", Amy Choi's "American Woman". I'm still waiting for a substantial, perceptive hist ...more
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was some fascinating reading. It wasn’t just another book about the Patty Hearst debacle. It was way more than that. It was more like a cultural history of the ’70s using P.H. as a catalyst, (is that the right word?) for the ’80s and it’s New Conservatism and it’s Ronald Reagan.

Like I said, this isn’t just a book about P.H. and her life and times with the SLA. The author does a good job of giving the reader an overview of what happened, but the main point of the book is to take that situati
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011

I'm fascinated with the Patty Hearst kidnapping and because of the mixture of charismatic leadership and manipulation, and class warfare.

One thing I disliked about this book was how briefly the author covered the actual abduction. The facts surrounding Patty's life prior to the abduction and during the actual abduction take up about 30 pages total.

The rest of the book focuses on the trial and how America interpreted the events. The author points to psychology, cinema, and music to show how cul
Katherine Basto
Aug 22, 2015 rated it liked it
The first part of this book gives an interesting synopsis of the Patty Hearst abduction, her trial and the aftermath. The author does a decent job describing the context of the abduction and what was happening during the turbulent '70s. However, there are so many quotes from different newspapers and magazines about the case, that is became predictable. It was distracting after awhile.
The second half of the book is a psychological analysis that seems like the author needed to fulfill page amounts
Sep 04, 2008 rated it liked it
This was... ok. Most of the focus of the book ended up being on the media and public reaction to the Hearst case, and how it reflected a kind of sea change from ideas and theories about criminality from the 60s to the way people reacted to things in the 80s. My main problem was that the author didn't really go into enough detail about anything -- it felt like he was saying, "This is how things were, and this is how they changed" without enough to back it up. So it was interesting, but overall fe ...more
Tanya Lolonis
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Graebner re-visits the story of Patty Hearst's kidnapping and criminal adventures, and describes how America reacted to its amibuity. Found his analysis succinct and extremely thought-provoking -- namely, the nature of personal identity. Was she victim? Survivor? Was she a victim of the Stockholm Syndrom? Appropriately paranoid about the FBI and police? He argues that our fascination with her story was a factor in our new longing for heroism, and how this helped shape the emerging Reagan-era con ...more
Jennifer Griffith
Sep 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Interesting. The author sets the Patty Hearst story in the context of the social change of the 1970s. I had to skim some parts (since I was on a road trip while I read it), but I found the conclusions in particular of great interest. Good insights into one of the weirder chapters of American history.
Jul 02, 2012 added it
In this book Graebner mentions the Ramones, but for some reason doesn't mention their song ("Judy Is A Punk") that mentioned the Symbionese Liberation Army, the radical group that kidnapped Patty Hearst. In his tangent about the CBGB punk rock scene, he ALSO fails to mention Patti Smith, whose first record was a reworking of the standard "Hey Joe" as a tribute to Hearst! What's up with THAT?
Interesting in that the second section of this book addresses different ways in which the Patty Hearst case was framed and how she was portrayed by the media and the public. Unfortunately a lot of the references appear to be a big stretch and are very briefly mentioned so the reader doesn't really get an explanation on why such tenuous parallels are being drawn.
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was ok
The book is in two halves, the "story" and then the cultural critique. The story half is actually pretty light on details. What's provided is there to stack the deck for the critique part. I don't fault the guy for this strategy since the goal of the book is clearly academic, but as a narrative of the events surrounding Hearts and the SLA and the whathaveyou, it leaves a bit to be desired.
Sep 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Fascinating post-modernist account of a notorious political kidnapping case in mid-1970s America. Like a window into a world when the post-1960s 'Silent Majority'/'Moral Majority'/Reaganite views were first forming.
Daniel Burton-Rose
Dec 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
Not only does Graebner do no original research, he doesn't even synthesize the SLA and the Hearst case well. How can there have been so many books on the SLA in their short lifetime, and so little of substance since?
Daniel Hughes
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it
A really interesting subject, but the narrative meanders constantly into irritating socio-philosophical musings and the book as a whole is too sympathetic to Patty Hearst.
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
An excellent dissection of the Patty Hearst kidnapping, trial, and everything in between and in the aftermath, all in the context of the politics, culture and conventions of the times.
Jeff Crosby
Jul 30, 2016 rated it liked it
An academic treatment of a bizarre incident in 1970s America.
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