Synopses & Reviews
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
introduces Evelyn Ryan, an enterprising woman who kept poverty at bay with wit, poetry, and perfect prose during the "contest era" of the 1950s and 1960s.
Stepping back into a time when fledgling advertising agencies were active partners with consumers, and everyday people saw possibility in every coupon, Terry Ryan tells how her mother kept the family afloat by writing jingles and contest entries. Mom's winning ways defied the Church, her alcoholic husband, and antiquated views of housewives. To her, flouting convention was a small price to pay when it came to securing a happy home for her six sons and four daughters. Evelyn, who would surely be a Madison Avenue executive if she were working today, composed her jingles not in the boardroom, but at the ironing board.
By entering contests wherever she found them -- TV, radio, newspapers, direct-mail ads -- Evelyn Ryan was able to win every appliance her family ever owned, not to mention cars, television sets, bicycles, watches, a jukebox, and even trips to New York, Dallas, and Switzerland. But it wasn't just the winning that was miraculous; it was the timing. If a toaster died, one was sure to arrive in the mail from a forgotten contest. Days after the bank called in the second mortgage on the house, a call came from the Dr Pepper company: Evelyn was the grand-prize winner in its national contest -- and had won enough to pay the bank.
Graced with a rare appreciation for life's inherent hilarity, Evelyn turned every financial challenge into an opportunity for fun and profit. From her frenetic supermarket shopping spree -- worth $3,000 today -- to her clever entries worthy of Erma Bombeck, Dorothy Parker, and Ogden Nash, the story of this irrepressible woman whose talents reached far beyond her formidable verbal skills is told in The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with an infectious joy that shows how a winning spirit will triumph over the poverty of circumstance.
"Ryan's daughter tells her mother's story in a memoir that is both an excellent chronicle of the contest-crazy '50s and '60s and a moving portrait of a clever, determined woman. Don't be surprised if this sleeper of a story generates tremendous word of mouth." David Pitt, Booklist
"A good-natured memoir as compelling as a commercial jingle." Judith Stone, O Magazine
"Nabs first prize in the memoir genre." People
Winner is the most charming and inspirational book I've read in a long time.
It bursts with stories of soul, humanity, cunning, courage, and humor in the
face of desperate times, like the shopping cart heaped full of groceries won
by the author's indomitable mother." Anne Lamott
"Terry Ryan's story of her amazing, prize-winning mother is simply fabulous.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio is a wonderful snapshot of mid-twentieth-century
America a heartwarming, marvelous story that deserves its place alongside
the best nonfiction in modern literature. Patricia Cornwell
About the Author
the sixth of Evelyn Ryan's ten children, is the writing half of T. O. Sylvester, a long-running cartoon in the San Francisco Chronicle.
The author of two books of poetry, she lives in San Francisco, California.