Pearson, Patricia 1964-
PEARSON, Patricia 1964-
PERSONAL: Born 1964; daughter of Landon Pearson (mother; a Canadian senator); married; children: Two.
CAREER: Has worked as a journalist in New York, NY, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
AWARDS, HONORS: Arthur Ellis Award, 1997, for When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence; gold medal, National Magazine Awards Foundation, for "My Violent Art"; another National Magazine award; National Author's Award.
When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, Viking (New York, NY), 1997, published as When She Was Bad: How and Why Women Get away with Murder, Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.
Playing House (novel), Avon Trade (New York, NY), 2003.
Area Woman Blows Gasket: And Other Tales from the Domestic Frontier, Bloomsbury Publishing (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to books, including The Art of Writing, sixth edition, and To Arrive Where You Are, Banff Centre. Contributor to periodicals, including USA Today, New York Times, Guardian, London Times, New York Observer, Redbook, Nerve, Shift, Chatelaine, Saturday Night, and Spy. Columnist for National Post;
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Patricia Pearson worked in New York City as a crime reporter before returning to Canada to write a column for the National Post and raise her children. Her experience as a crime journalist resulted in her first book, When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, which, according to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, contains "gripping, controversial material that sheds light on violence and society, and how women can get away with murder." Since fewer than ten percent of studies on human aggression concentrate on women, the facts of female violence are often overlooked. In her study, Pearson notes that "women commit the majority of child homicides in the United States, a greater share of physical child abuse, an equal rate of sibling violence and assaults on the elderly, about a quarter of child sexual abuse, an overwhelming share of the killings of newborns, and a fair preponderance of sexual assaults."
In her book Pearson points out that criminologists explain female violence as being "involuntary" and often "expressive." It has been accepted that women are pushed to commit violence when they are in abusive domestic situations, are coerced into committing crimes by a male, or are mentally unstable. Mary Zeiss Stange noted in the Women's Review of Books that "the picture of female violence is a rich and textured tableau that we present to ourselves as monochromatic and stilted. To some, the subject of women's aggression is too threatening. To others, the subject is too trivial…. To others, most notably the academics who define the terms and interpret the data, it is too alarmingly 'anti-feminist' to even suggest." Pearson does more than suggest, however; she cites cases, some of them notorious headline makers.
The cases Pearson studies include those of Toni Cato of Detroit, Michigan, who contracted out her husband's killing to cash in on his life insurance; Karla Homolka, an Ontario woman who tortured and murdered, along with her husband, three young women, one of whom was her sister; Dorothea Puente, a Sacramento boardinghouse owner who killed, ground up, and buried in the garden her elderly and disabled tenants in order to collect their Social Security checks; Aileen Wuornos, a Florida prostitute who killed seven customers—she claimed self-defense—before she was convicted and executed; and Texas ax murderer-turned-born-again Christian Karla Faye Tucker. Pearson also includes a chapter about Munchausen Syndrome by proxy (MSBP), the psychological disorder that causes women caretakers to injure and/or kill infants and children in order to receive sympathy. It is now thought that a significant number of sudden infant deaths may be attributable to MSBP. Pearson labels these women as serial abusers and killers.
Any charge that Pearson is betraying her gender in writing When She Was Bad has been countered by her compassionate approach, according to reviewers. A Publishers Weekly critic, for instance, noted that "her discussion of cases where women have killed their children are as engaging and sympathetic as they are clinical." Similarly, Herizons contributor Val Paape wrote that Pearson's "genuine concern for women is a constant theme. When She Was Bad is a must read for anyone interested in advancing a feminist discourse about women and violence that avoids the pitfalls of old stereotypes and essentialism."
Pearson's novel Playing House relates a story in which "having a baby gets the chick-lit treatment," according to Booklist contributor Kaite Mediatore. In this tale, Frannie MacKenzie, a single, New York City magazine editor, discovers she is pregnant, but is not even sure of the exact spelling of the name of the father, a traveling jazz musician. Frannie decides to have the baby and flies home to Toronto to see a Canadian doctor. She ultimately remains there because when she attempts to reenter the United States she is told her visa has expired. Frannie eventually realizes she is in love with the baby's father; she also experiences all the necessities of first-time motherhood, from shopping for maternity clothes and equipment to taking Lamaze classes. Mediatore called Playing House a "clever and humorous look at pregnancy and motherhood."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2003, Kaite Mediatore, review of Playing House, p. 576.
British Medical Journal, February 13, 1999, Raj Persaud and David Batty, review of When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, p. 470.
Herizons, spring, 1998, Val Paape, review of When She Was Bad, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 1997, review of When She Was Bad, pp. 1287-1288.
Publishers Weekly, September 22, 1997, review of When She Was Bad, p. 63.
Women's Review of Books, April, 1998, Mary Zeiss Stange, review of When She Was Bad, p. 5.
Patricia Pearson Home Page, http://www.pearsonspost.com (August 26, 2004).*