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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 ArmyÃ¢ÂÂwho had kidnapped her a mere nine weeks earlier. But the robberyÃ¢ÂÂand the spectacular 1976 trial that ended with HearstÃ¢ÂÂs criminal convictionÃ¢ÂÂseemed oddly appropriate to the troubled mood of the nation, an instant exemplar of a turbulent era.
With PattyÃ¢ÂÂs Got a Gun, the first substantial reconsideration of Patty HearstÃ¢ÂÂs 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 trialÃ¢ÂÂas well as cultural artifacts from glam rock to Invasion of the Body SnatchersÃ¢ÂÂGraebner 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.ÃÂ Trapped in the middle of that shift, the affectless, zombielike, Ã¢ÂÂbrainwashedÃ¢ÂÂ Patty Hearst was a ready-made symbol of all that seemed to have gone wrong with the sixtiesÃ¢ÂÂthe inevitable result, some said,ÃÂ of rampant permissiveness, feckless elitism, the loss of moral clarity, and feminism run amok.
By offering a fresh look at Patty Hearst and her trialÃ¢ÂÂfor the first time free from the agendas of the day, yet set fully in their cultural contextÃ¢ÂÂPattyÃ¢ÂÂs Got a Gun delivers a nuanced portrait of both an unforgettable moment and an entire era, one whose repercussions continue to be felt today.