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Fugitive Days: A Memoir Paperback – January 28, 2003

63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Memory is a motherfucker," begins 1960s-era political activist and Weather Underground member Ayers, who went underground with several comrades after their co-conspirators' bomb accidentally exploded in 1970, destroying a Greenwich Village townhouse and killing some of the activists involved. Ayers (A Kind and Just Parent), now a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Illinois, grew up well-to-do, attended private schools and became politicized at the University of Michigan. He describes his spiraling New Left involvement as he became aware of what he casts as the injustice of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, inner-city race relations, and police brutality and battle tactics, especially in Chicago during demonstrations at the 1969 Democratic convention. The terrific first half of the memoir details 1950s and '60s U.S. culture his own childhood, shaped by images of the atomic bomb and TV war movies; the influence of Bob Dylan, Mao and Che Guevara on American youth but the book really takes off once he goes underground. He and his colleagues invent identities (often using names such as Nat Turner or Emma Goldman), travel continuously and avoid the police and FBI as Nixon bombs Cambodia and My Lai is ravaged. Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn raised two children underground before turning themselves in in 1981, when most charges were dropped because of "extreme governmental misconduct" during the long search for the fugitives. Written without self-righteousness or apology, this memoir rings of hard-learned truth and integrity and is an important contribution to literature on 1960s culture and American radicalism. (Sept.)Forecast: With advance praise from Hunter S. Thompson, Scott Turow, Studs Terkel and Rosellen Brown, plus a 20-city author tour, this ringing account should attract considerable review attention and solid sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"Memory is a motherfucker," writes Ayers (A Kind and Just Parent). In the 1970s, he was a head of the radical Weathermen and one of America's Ten Most Wanted, along with his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, but he is now a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois in Chicago. His memoir is a breath of fresh air in this self-absorbed age. Ayers discusses his reservations about the use of violence to achieve an end to violence (reservations he held then as well), but he is unrepentant in believing that America was the aggressor against North Vietnam and that right-minded people have an obligation to resist unjust wars. The book is uneven in tone, alternating fluffy passages about the passage of time with straightforward narration of Ayers's more than ten years on the lam. The sentiments expressed in the book still seem noble, however, regardless of one's opinions of the means used by Ayers's comrades. There are many lessons still to be learned from such narratives. Recommended. David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142002550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142002551
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,979,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bill Ayers is the author of the acclaimed and controversial memoir Fugitive Days and many books on education, including To Teach, Teaching Toward Freedom, and A Kind and Just Parent. He lives in Hyde Park, Chicago.

Photo credit Ismail Khalidi.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

88 of 109 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 4, 2001
Format: Hardcover
First, some straight facts. Ayers is, and was, a "radical from the sixities", but many of his radical actions were at the tail end of that infamous decade and a good portion of this book relates to the seventies, 1970 to '75, not the over-reported, mythical "60's". Second, he was not representative of "baby boomers" or even the anti-Viet Nam war movement and, though you can't tell it from the bio sketch or the book, he might even be too old to be a member of that much maligned group, the boomers.
Ayers was a key member of a small splinter group known as Weatherman. It can aruged that his group, and other "direct action" radicals, actually helped put an end to the serious, mass movement against the war in Viet Nam by going so far out in front of the understanding of the American public as to appear to have landed from some distant planet. To the older generation, they appeared to be the living, breathing, violent confirmation that the anti-war movement was unpatriotic and even bent on the ultimate destruction of the America. They were right about the war in Viet Nam, but probably little else.
All that said, this is a fast paced, quick trip through the minds of hearts of one sub-set of deadly serious radicals. Ayers is most honest in revealing his youthful fantasies about women, free love and about the attractions of beer, dope and a freewheeling way of life. He faithfully reconstructs the all too rapid, and slippery, path to radicalism taken by himself and his commrades (his term). He takes pride in their ability to live underground and elude the FBI, while planning and carrying out their clandestine actions.
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81 of 104 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Okay: what do we have here with this book? The subtitle identifies it as "A Memoir," but that's not a very good generic fit. How many memoirs have you read wherein the author keeps pestering you every 5 pages with reminders that his account of his own past cannot be trusted or believed. Ayers does this with an interminable succession of italicized passages, each of them a high-flying poetic meditation on the gossamer nature of memory, the impossibility of accurate recall, the slipperiness of subjectivity, etc etc etc.
Ayers' first such declaration, on page 7, cannot be quoted here (...). Let us paraphrase it thus: "Memory is an Oedipal coefficient." On a regular basis throughout the book, Ayers renews his license to lie and dissemble with more and more and more of this italicized gibberish: "Memory is a house of mirrors, a land of make believe. . . . a delicate dance of desire and faith, a shadow of a shadow. . . . a way of forgetting, a way of filtering. . . . Memory is a marvel, quick as a monkey and just as silly. . . ." and so on and so forth. A solid 5% of this book is dedicated to rendundant declarations concerning the ineffable elusiveness of memory. [By the by, the above quotations are a fair sample of the cloyingly precious "fine writing" that permeates the book. ] Never for a second would it occur to the author that there are sources of information out there in the world in relation to which the veracity of his unreliable memory can be checked and controlled. It's indicative of the solipsism of Ayers' mind that not a single other work on the 1960s is cited in his self-serving --what shall we call it, autohagiography? Naughtobiography?
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52 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Alan on October 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Rarely do I have such a reaction to a book as I've had towards this one. Being someone who opposed the Vietnam War, my expectations were that it would be an enjoyable read - not a book I'd come to loathe.
Bill Ayers does a good job of taking his readers back to the chaos of that time in the early chapters of his book. And I congratulate him on his unswerving honesty towards himself and his cadre of comrades. But he is such detestable, manipulative, whiny, self-righteous holier-than-thou person that I suddenly see a lot more legitimacy in the words, "Love it or leave it."
I completely lost tolerance for him at the end when he brings up My Lai yet another time in the book and then asks when America will acknowledge the sacrifice Diana made toward ending the war - Diana who blew herself up or was blown up by another in their gang while planning to bomb a target in the US.
I wish I could rate this book zero stars. I wish I could get my money back.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chris Gregory on January 10, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Garbage and perverted lies from a terrorist. Instead of subverting our youth this piece of human flotsam should be rotting in jail. He has no morals, no conscience, and certainly no interest in the truth.
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45 of 65 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Everything that is destructive to the civic culture of this country is exemplified by this morally obtuse piece of self-indulgence. Here is a man born to privilege who in his youth advocated terrorism as a means of achieving social change (for what ends does not seem to have been clear even to him)and who wrote of the radical anti-American Weather Underground: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough." Well, has enough been done for him now, with the murder of the more than six thousand innocent men and women on September 11? "Bring the revolution home," he advised the young. "Kill your parents, that's where it's really at." The man is beneath contempt, but even worse is the stupidity of the publishers and media reviewers who take him seriously and still worse is the mindlessly corrupt "education" system that makes him a "distinguished professor" in a position to influence others too young to have learned history or experienced life. The book is sickening in its hypocrisy and should be read only as an example of the kind of arrogant fanaticism that undertakes to bring the world into alignment with one's own utopian ideas by any means no matter how violent and how destructive. The man who wrote it should have the grace to be embarrassed and to keep quiet.
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