Holman, Virginia 1966-

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HOLMAN, Virginia 1966-


Born September 22, 1966, in Richmond, VA; married; children: one son. Education: Virginia Commonwealth University, B.A., 1988; University of North Carolina, Greensboro, M.F.A., 1990.


Home—Durham, NC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer and educator. Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, NC, member of editorial staff; Duke University, Durham, NC, writer-in-residence, 1999-2001; therapeutic writing teacher.


Pushcart Prize, 2001, for "Home-sickness"; National Alliance for the Mentally Ill award, 2003, for Rescuing Patty Hearst; Rosalynn Carter fellowship, 2003-04.


Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a Decade Gone Mad, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor of articles, essays, and book reviews to periodicals, including DoubleTake, Redbook, Self, and Washington Post.


Two novels.


Virginia Holman's memoir, Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a Decade Gone Mad, is not about the 1970s heiress hostage-turned-radical who renamed herself Citizen Tania. Hearst is instead a metaphor for Holman and her family, who were at the same time being taken hostage by her mother's untreated schizophrenia. Booklist's Vanessa Bush wrote that "in this searing memoir … Holman draws parallels between the uncertainty and craziness of the times and the dislocation within her own family." A Philadelphia Inquirer reviewer said that the book offers readers "a clear idea of what mental illness looks like to a child. It turns out to be confusing, infuriating and frightening."

Holman was eight years old when her mother, Molly, had her first full-scale schizophrenic episode. During the event, Molly took Holman and her baby sister, Emma, to the family beach cottage in Kechotan, Virginia, which she turned into a field hospital for children escaping war. Homan helped her mother, who believed she had been inducted into a secret army, sanitize the hospital and paint the windows black. They lived in the cottage for three years, going out on night training missions and preparing for her mother's vision of what was to come. Her father, who thought of divorcing his wife, was afraid of losing his children in divorce court. He ended up joining his wife's plan, but his wife's condition continued to manifest itself through verbal abuse and rages. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Holman "knows something isn't right with her mother, but years pass before the other adults in her life (including her father) provide a language for speaking about the unspeakable."

"My father's choice was simple and brutal," writes Holman. "He could stay and try to help her and honor his vows—after all 'in sickness' was part of the deal—or he could abandon her. He chose to stay and tried to talk her into help. For years I hated him for it. And for those same years I respected him and admired him for staying. My father was willing to sacrifice himself for all of us."

After several years, Molly agreed to see a psychiatrist, but her condition did not improve. Holman's father moved in with his daughters while Holman was in college, and on a visit to see his wife, found that she had ripped the electrical outlets from the walls because she suspected wiretaps. She was eventually committed and remains institutionalized.

"The story is riveting," wrote a USA Today reviewer. "No thriller could be more suspenseful than the unpredictable escapades of a mother straddling the widening gap between responsibility and insanity.… Holman's answer is life-affirming, personal, and unpretentious. Her book is electrifying, like lightning in a Mason jar."



Holman, Virginia, Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a Decade Gone Mad, Simon and Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.


Book, March-April, 2003, Susan Tekulve, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories from a Decade Gone Mad, p. 80.

Booklist, February 1, 2003, Vanessa Bush, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, p. 962.

Entertainment Weekly, March 14, 2003, Emily Mead, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, p. 70.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2002, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, p. 1823.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Lucille Boone, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, p. 155.

O, May, 2003, interview with Holman, p. 78.

People, March 24, 2003, Lori Gottlieb, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, p. 41.

Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26, 2003, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst.

Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, p. 48.

USA Today, April 3, 2003, review of Rescuing Patty Hearst, section D, p. 6.


Barnes and Noble Web site,http://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (June 3, 2004), interview with Holman.*

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