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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
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American Heiress > Had You Heard?

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message 1: by SCPL (last edited Oct 06, 2017 01:31PM) (new) - added it

SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
Happy Friday everyone!

My question for you today, as we delve into American Heiress is, how familiar (if at all) were you with the Hearst kidnapping prior to this book?

I myself had only a vague knowledge (probably partly because I was born 8 years after the kidnapping took place). I knew of the name Patty Hearst, that she'd been kidnapped, and that there was some association with "Stockholm Syndrome" but I knew nothing of the specifics, particularly the Symbionese Liberation Army, their crimes, or the trial.

I'm especially curious to hear if anyone who was around during the 1970s would like to share their memories of the ordeal and the news coverage of it? Today we seem to live in a neverending 24-hour newsreel, but I get the impression from this book that the Hearst kidnapping was perhaps one of the first news events to incite a media circus. I know I'll be picking my mom's brain about the events at Thanksgiving dinner!

I look forward to hearing from you, and I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving weekend!


Heidi Madden | 118 comments We’re almost exactly the same age! You knew more than I did though. I have heard of the Hearst family of course but I didn’t know of the kidnapping or even Patty’s name. I know about Stockholm Syndrome but I had not heard of the SLA at all before picking up this book.

I hope we do get some more experienced readers involved in this conversation. I talked to my dad this weekend and he definitely knew about this situation. He knew Patty’s name, that she was a Hearst and who they were, and that she had been kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. He also confirmed that the whole situation drug on so long that most people lost interest in it. We also talked about the rise of news media and he confirmed that it was a very different time. If you didn’t actively consume media by watching the 6pm news or reading the paper, it would have been very easy to not be aware of Patty’s ordeal. Unlike today where we are bombarded by media messages and it is very hard to avoid current events.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was the effort Toobin put into establishing context and explaining what life and society was like in California in the 1970s. It is a very well researched book and I appreciated his historical foundation for such a weird sensational story.

message 3: by SCPL (last edited Oct 13, 2017 07:34AM) (new) - added it

SCPL (st_catharines_public_library) | 542 comments Mod
I totally agree, Heidi, the book is very well-researched and definitely paints a vivid picture of the cultural and political climate of the 1970s. When I visited my parents over Thanksgiving weekend, I also discussed the Hearst kidnapping and its aftermath with my parents, who were about 16 when she was kidnapped in 1974.

Both remembered it well, particularly my dad. My mom talked about seeing it on the news and in the papers, and recalled the media repeatedly showing the two famous photos (Patty robbing the bank, gun in hand, and the propaganda shot of Patty in the beret holding the gun). My dad talked more about the fact that people seemed to think Hearst was a "spoiled rich bitch" and therefore, remembers that people at the time didn't really "buy" the Stockholm Syndrome theory. Both said that they still don't really know whether she was an active participant or if she was "brainwashed", expressed their interest in reading this book, and asked if the book answered that question. I guess we'll have to read on to find out ;)

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