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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the…

American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of… (original 2016; edition 2016)

by Jeffrey Toobin (Author)

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3232849,803 (3.77)8
Title:American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst
Authors:Jeffrey Toobin (Author)
Info:Doubleday (2016), 384 pages
Collections:To read

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American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin (2016)



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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Very good description of the events and aftermath. Peoples' life were touched and changed and the perception of people'd mind change based on the situations surronding their life. It is a well done book. ( )
  Baochuan | Aug 23, 2018 |
You never know how someone might react to trauma. We can guess, but we can't know. So if you look at a case like Patricia Hearst, the heiress who was kidnapped from the Bay Area apartment she shared with her fiance in the early 70s by a radical leftist group that called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), could it be possible that she would have professed to join them of her own free will? Author and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin's American Heiress examines the Hearst case, from the formation of the SLA, through Hearst's kidnapping, her year and a half with the SLA, the trial, and the aftermath. The trial brought the concept of "Stockholm syndrome", although that term was not yet coined and was never used, into the pop culture consciousness. And Toobin presents the story, as fully as he can, to try to answer the question I posed above: did she join the SLA for real, of her own volition, or was her behavior a result of her trauma?

Hearst herself didn't cooperate with the writing of the book, and one wonders if that's what leads to Toobin's all-but-stated conclusion that her claim of duress was made in bad faith. I had been only vaguely aware of the entire situation before I read this book...I knew that she'd been kidnapped, and seen the pictures from her bank robbery, and that she'd been tried for her role in it, but I honestly didn't even know if she'd been acquitted or convicted. I'd been vaguely under the impression that her time with the SLA was relatively short and that after the bank robbery, she and the SLA had been quickly apprehended. Turns out, that wasn't the case at all: she was with the SLA for a year and a half, and the bank robbery that produced the pictures we've all seen was just one of the crimes she was involved in the commission of on their behalf. And, as Toobin points out, she had multiple opportunities to flee her situation or reach out for help, even being encouraged to go home on occasion, and she refused to do. But why? That question is never satisfactorily answered.

It's Hearst's time with the SLA that makes up the substantial majority of the book. Since his prior books that I've read have been focused on the courts, I went in expecting a greater focus on the trial, but that makes up maybe a quarter of the narrative or less. I didn't enjoy this book as much as I've enjoyed Toobin's other books, in part because of his bias against Hearst (one of his primary sources were the records of another member of the SLA, which may well explain this tilt), but one thing this book does really well is setting the events in the context of their time and place. The Bay Area, where most of it transpired, had seen the hope and promise of the late 60s counterculture sour into the suspicion and paranoia and politically-motivated bombings of the 70s, mirroring the larger national climate in the same direction. I think I've mentioned it before, but I feel like US history in the 1900s outside of World War II is a sizable gap in my knowledge, and I really liked getting perspective on a time in the recent past that I was less aware of than I realized. It's a well-constructed book as his always are, but it's not as good as some of his others that I've read. If you're interested in the case, it's worth a read, but it's not worth an unqualified recommendation. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
American Heiress is not just about Patricia Hearst's kidnapping. It's about the group of people who perpetrated this crime. It's about the state of the United States in the years surrounding 1974. It's not the most fascinating historical book I've ever read, but it absolutely pulled me right along.

I was just ten years old when Hearst was kidnapped, and I thought my lack of clarity about these events was my own faulty youthful memory. But as I read this book, I understood that events were manipulated by the parties involved. What truly happened will probably never be completely clear.

What a tumultuous time it was during the 70s in the United States! Cities like San Francisco were absolutely ripe for activism. Reading this book, I was struck by how much the Symbionese Liberation Army achieved in a cell phone-free world. And how miserably they failed at accomplishing all their plans due to their own ineptness.

Based on the book, it seems to me that Patricia Hearst was not a victim of coercion or brainwashing but of simple peer pressure. In a sense, the SLA were her new peers after the kidnapping. And then, upon capture, she again shifted her personality and perspective to help win her case.

As the prosecutor against Hearst said:

"“In dealing with intent,” Browning said, “we can’t unscrew the top of a person’s head and look in.” Intent must be proven by outside factors—by circumstantial evidence."

Toobin tries his best to look inside his "characters'" heads, and present the circumstances of the case. It makes for some pretty interesting reading. ( )
  TheBibliophage | Mar 20, 2018 |
Jeffrey Toobin tells a point-by-point narrative of every player in the Patricia Hearst case. The writing has some repetition but it does not take away from interest of the story. The portrayal brought me to question Patricia's experiences within the SLA. I both sympathized and felt critical of her actions. It was a mixed bag. Everyone had a different side of the story. It is a yet another case of how money can speak. ( )
  Anamie | Oct 3, 2017 |
The definitive book on the kidnapping, crimes, and trial of Patty Campbell Hearst. The title pretty much gives it away: Author Toobin believes that were it not for Ms Hearst's "social status" along with a large dollop of white privilege, she would have faced a much harsher fate from the law and the justice system. Toobin writes a detailed but not plodding account of her kidnapping, slow conversion to the SLA movement, the various crimes of these revolutionaries, her capture, trial, and subsequent fate. No spoilers will be revealed here but this reader was surprised, even after all these years, to get the full story. Toobin spares little sympathy for his main character.The real victims are those who were unfortunate enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time during the bank robberies and a few of the idealistic, genuinely pacifistic early members of the group. True crime writing at its best. ( )
1 vote mjspear | Aug 7, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
In the end, Toobin returns to the specific mystery of Patricia Hearst, whom he finds fascinating even when incredible. Now an establishment matron attending dog shows, with all evidence of “Tania” seemingly erased, she remains complex, capable of simultaneously being a sincere convert to her surroundings and a savvy protector of her own interest.
added by rybie2 | editNew York Times, Dana Spiotta (Aug 1, 2016)
She wound up serving minimal prison time and receiving special treatment from two presidents: commutation of sentence from Jimmy Carter and a pardon from Bill Clinton. Note the “Heiress” in the title. Mr. Toobin points out that American prisons are full of people who are led astray and wind up committing criminal acts. They have no chance at one act of clemency, let alone two.
added by rybie2 | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Aug 1, 2016)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385536712, Hardcover)

From New Yorker staff writer and bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin, the definitive account of the kidnapping and trial that defined an insane era in American history
On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a senior in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre "Tania."
The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing -- the Hearst family trying to secure Patty's release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the photographs capturing "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a bank robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty's year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circuslike trial, filled with theatrical  courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the phrase "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon. 
The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst; and recreates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors' crusade.  
Or did she?

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 18 May 2016 11:17:08 -0400)

a--American Heiress Or did she? From the Hardcover edition.

(summary from another edition)

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