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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 Armywho had kidnapped her a mere nine weeks earlier. But the robberyand the spectacular 1976 trial that ended with Hearsts criminal convictionseemed oddly appropriate to the troubled mood of the nation, an instant exemplar of a turbulent era.
With Pattys Got a Gun, the first substantial reconsideration of Patty Hearsts story in more than twenty-five years, William Graebner vividly re-creates the atmosphere of uncertainty and frustration of mid-1970s America. Drawing on copious media accounts of the robbery and trialas well as cultural artifacts from glam rock to Invasion of the Body SnatchersGraebner paints a compelling portrait of a nation confused and frightened by the upheavals of 1960s liberalism and beginning to tip over into what would become Reagan-era conservatism, with its invocations of individual responsibility and the heroic.Trapped in the middle of that shift, the affectless, zombielike, brainwashed Patty Hearst was a ready-made symbol of all that seemed to have gone wrong with the sixtiesthe inevitable result, some said,of rampant permissiveness, feckless elitism, the loss of moral clarity, and feminism run amok.
By offering a fresh look at Patty Hearst and her trialfor the first time free from the agendas of the day, yet set fully in their cultural contextPattys Got a Gun delivers a nuanced portrait of both an unforgettable moment and an entire era, one whose repercussions continue to be felt today.
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