Terry Ryan biography

Author Biography  | Books by this Author  | Readalikes

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan Biography

Terry Ryan was a technical writer, book editor, reviewer, poet, and coauthor of the long-running Chronicle cartoon "T.O. Sylvester." However, the work for which she is best known is her 2001 memoir, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, about her mother, Evelyn Ryan, a 1950s housewife with 10 children and a husband with a habit of drinking his paycheck, who wrote product jingles for contests to keep her family afloat. 

Terry Ryan, the sixth of 10 children, was born on July 14, 1946, in Defiance, Ohio. Growing up in the middle, with five brothers, she earned the nickname "Tuff." Always athletic, she was the first girl pitcher in the town's summer baseball league and led the Defiance team to intramural victory.

She earned her bachelor's degree in the late '60s from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and moved to Chicago where she worked as an editor at the Journal of the American Medical Association.  There she met Irene Ogus; anxious to see the United States, they contracted to take "drive-away" cars across country.

"We got in a car one night in Chicago when it was about 40 below," recalled Ogus, now a San Francisco mortgage broker. "We had all our possessions in this big old Buick and drove for 30 hours to deliver it to Fort Lauderdale." From there, they went west, settling in San Francisco where they joined the Daughters of Bilitis, a social group founded in 1955 that was the first lesbian rights organization.

Ryan met Pat Holt in 1983, who was then editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review.  Holt had been requested to "brighten" up the book review section - the result was Terry and Sylvia Mollick's cartoon, which ran for 16 years.

Holt and Ryan were married by Mayor Gavin Newsom on Valentine's Day weekend in 2004.  She recorded an account of the day in "We Do!" published by Chronicle Books.

The Ryan kids "were always encouraged to be ourselves," Terry's sister Betsy recalls. "I was not expected to be like Tuff. Barb was not expected to be like me. Mom waited for some indication from us of who we were, and she helped us go there. Today we differ on every last thing because we were never expected to fit into a mold."

When her mother died in 1998, Ryan knew she had to write her story.  She hauled home a chest full of 50-year-old contest entries, workbooks and letters, and her mother's parrot, Clancy, who still speaks in her mother's voice.  The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio was an instant success and was soon optioned for a movie.  It was while Ryan was visiting the film set in a small town near Toronto that she first showed symptoms of what was to be diagnosed as Stage IV cancer, with lesions in her lungs and brain.  She underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. 

When she appeared at a screening of The Prize Winner of Defiance in San Francisco in 2005, cancer was clearly sapping her energy, but not her outlook.  She told a reporter, "You have to always, always look at the positive side and don't get lost in the negative."

She died in May 2007 at her home in San Francisco. She was 60.  She is survived by her nine siblings, their children and Pat Holt, her partner of nearly a quarter-century.



This bio was last updated on 07/15/2011. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Books by this Author

Books by Terry Ryan at BookBrowse
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

All the books below are recommended as readalikes for Terry Ryan but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose readalikes

We recommend 7 similar authors

View all 7 Readalikes

Non-members can see 2 results. Become a member
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Jackie & Me
    Jackie & Me
    by Louis Bayard
    Louis Bayard's Jackie & Me offers a fictionalized version of the early relationship between John F. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Facemaker
    The Facemaker
    by Lindsey Fitzharris
    The summer of 1914 saw the beginning of World War I, the bloody conflict known as the 'war to end ...
  • Book Jacket: How to Read Now
    How to Read Now
    by Elaine Castillo
    Toni Morrison once wrote, 'My project rises from delight, not disappointment.' This remark appeared ...
  • Book Jacket: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
    Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
    by Gabrielle Zevin
    It's been more than 20 years since Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay won ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Dirt Creek
    by Hayley Scrivenor

    "A heart-wrenching mystery, Scrivenor's remarkable sense of place brings Dirt Creek to life. A stellar debut."
    —Jane Harper,

  • Book Jacket

    Widowland
    by C. J. Carey

    A thrilling feminist dystopian novel set in an alternate 1950s Britain under the control of the Third Reich.

Who Said...

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people... but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wishes W H B W R

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.