With incisive humor, Bill Ayers’ captivating memoir reveals that behind the fearsome “public enemy” lies a deeply dedicated parent, compassionate teacher, and principled revolutionary activist, representing this country’s best hopes for a democratic future.
[A] witty and spirited follow-up to Fugitive Days. . . . Among the book’s many edifying elements, including insight into the inner life and deep humanity of a man portrayed as a “cartoon character,” are the author’s conversational style and whimsical sense of humor. . . Through humor and self-reflection, the book offers a complex portrait of Ayers, including his experiences as an early education specialist, professor, husband (to former Weather Underground leader Bernardine Dohrn), father of three, author, and activist. . .Often times riotously funny, yet also plainspoken and serious, this is a memoir of impressive range.
Amy Goodman host/executive producer Democracy Now! :
In Public Enemy Bill Ayers writes eloquently of the profound challenges, the joys, and the toll of embracing a deep, lifelong commitment to social change. He has confronted power for more than half a century, in the civil rights movement, against the Vietnam War, living underground for over a decade, and during his long career as a respected educator. This deeply personal memoir spans the gap from the ’60s to the present day, framing the current, so-called ‘war on terror’ in a critical, urgent light.
The legendary Ayers is at his spellbinding best in Public Enemy—a brilliant, spirited document of a revolutionary life in our not-so-revolutionary age. One of the most compelling insightful memoirs of the year.
Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident is an inspiring, ripping read. Apart from being a committed activist, engaging thinker, brilliant parent, Bill Ayers is a great storyteller. If only our true enemies were anything like that!
Bill Ayers is a master teacher, a master storyteller, and a clarion-clear voice of conscience and commitment. Here he is, standing calmly at the center of the never-ending maelstrom, a Public Enemy trying to make meaning and change and sense of it all.
BOOKLIST (June Sawyers):
This compelling sequel to Ayers’ Fugitive Days—published on September 11, 2001—describes the author’s chaotic life after he and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, became the topic and target of conversation during Barack Obama’s first run for the presidency. Accused of being a domestic terrorist, Ayers, a popular professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, learned to navigate his new role as the nation’s “public enemy.”
He begins his story in April 2008, when he was watching the presidential primary debate between Hillary Clinton and Obama with a dozen of his graduate students, and one of the debate moderators, George Stephanopoulos, asked Obama to explain his “friendship” with Ayers, a member of the radical 1960s Weather Underground. Ayers describes the nightmares that ensued: hate mail, death threats, cancelled lectures, being denied entry into Canada. He owns up to his activities as an “unrepentant terrorist” with the Underground but points out no one was killed or harmed: “Our notoriety, then and now, outstripped our activity.” Demonized and blacklisted, Ayers maintains not only his sanity but also his humor. When a reporter notes that he doesn’t look like a real Weatherman, Ayers laughs and asks her what a real Weatherman looks like.