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Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident Hardcover – October 8, 2013


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Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident + Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Antiwar Activist
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1ST edition (October 8, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080703276X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807032763
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This compelling sequel to Ayers’ Fugitive Days—published on September 11, 2001—describes the author’s chaotic life after he and his wife, Bernadette 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, canceled 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. A wonderful homage to free speech. --June Sawyers

Review

“[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,’ is 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.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“This compelling sequel to Ayers’ Fugitive Days describes the author’s chaotic life after he and his wife, Bernadette Dohrn, became the topic and target of conversation during Barack Obama’s first run for the presidency. . . . Demonized and blacklisted, Ayers maintains not only his sanity but also his humor. . . . A wonderful homage to free speech.” —Booklist, starred review

“The one-time Weather Underground fugitive talks about his life as a political bogeyman. . . . His writing is thoughtful, penetratingly insightful and marvelously lacking in self-pity.
No matter how they feel about his politics, readers of this memoir should find the author’s humanity irresistible.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The legendary Bill 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.” —Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
 
“An inspiring, ripping read. Apart from being a committed activist, engaging thinker, and brilliant parent, Bill Ayers is a great storyteller.” —Aleksandar Hemon, author ofThe Lazarus Project

“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.”Adam Mansbach, author of Rage Is Back 

“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.” —Amy Goodman, author of The Exception to the Rulers
 
“With incisive humor, Bill Ayers’s 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." —Angela Davis, author of Women, Race, and Class

“In no way apologetic, the book is a well-written consideration of an engaged life lived in a contentious time." —Counterpunch

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Customer Reviews

In addition, the writing is simply brilliant.
Carlo
Public Enemy is a book for political true believers of all stripes across the national and global stage.
John W. Duffy
If you don't like Ayers, this book will not change your mind in favor of him.
silhouette_of_enchantment

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By silhouette_of_enchantment on December 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've heard about Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground. But of course, they didn't teach much about Ayers (in either my history courses in high school or college), so I didn't know who he actually was until I read this book.

I didn't realize that Ayers is a charged, political lightning bolt galvanizing people on the left or the right. There are supporters (or non-supporters) on the left and the right who will either hate or like this book, no matter what. Politics aside, however, this book was still an interesting, behind-the-scenes prospective of how Ayers (who is now a teacher) became a hated public figure, and was used as a pawn to discredit President Barack Obama, during his campaign run. Both the left and the right do this during political campaigns by using a symbolic boogeyman (in the form of a hated criminal or public figure) to demonize their opponents. The public rarely hears from these individuals, once they become maligned by the press and political machine. They just disappear and hope the spotlight fades from them, so they can live their lives quietly. So, it was refreshing to hear from one of those "boogeymen", and hear how his life was affected during the political campaign process, and the events that led up to his demonization. To me, this is what made the book most fascinating, that a hated public figure dared to break his silence.

Honestly, I really don't think one's political perspective should determine whether a book is judge "okay" or not. But, to each his own? If you don't like Ayers, this book will not change your mind in favor of him. But, to me, it was still an interesting memoir from one of America's most hated men.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By realnaynay on December 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The Amazon 5 star rating for items makes it difficult for me to accurately describe how I feel about some items, while some items are easy to classify as 1 or 5 stars, others are not easy to rate with a 5 star system.

If I was using a 1 to 10 system, I would rate this book an 8, good to read, and one that I would read again.

I really thought this was going to be Bill Ayers trying to make a few bucks out of being infamous again during President Obama's campaign in 2008. While the presidential campaign in 2008 was mentioned at the beginning of the book, by 2008 no only was Bill Ayers a well respected professional specializing in early childhood education, he and his wife had turned themselves in to the law in the early 70's and had not been charged with any crimes.

He was very politically active when he was younger, in the 60's he was an outspoken protester against the Vietnam war and certainly a leader of the counter culture. But, despite their reputation, the Weathermen never harmed any innocent bystanders, all their actions were directed against damaging property and vandalism, which while nothing to necessarily admire, can be understood as a symptom of the times they lived in.

This book is more about how his interested in early childhood education began. During the ten years he and his wife were on the run, he and his wife had two children. At the time his children were young, an infant and a toddler, they were living in a very run down apartment, His wife was working, and Bill spent most of his time taking care of their young children. As very protective parents, they were not comfortable leaving their children with a sitter, but only one of them was working, which left them barely getting by.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Irma Olmedo on December 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
How many dimensions are there to one life? Read Public Enemy and get a good sense of that. Human beings are complex creatures and one provocative term does not capture the essence of a human life. This is one reason why reading Public Enemy is so provocative, instructive, and enlightening. How does someone who is characterized as a “public enemy” and “terrorist” reflect so wisely on the education of young children, education which aims to foster their creativity and social sensitivity to others? Ayers demonstrates this dimension of his life as he discusses his efforts to provide a meaningful education to his children and to participate as a teacher in an independent preschool to promote such an education. He continues this aspect of his work when he becomes a university professor, devoting himself to the preparation of teachers and educational researchers.
I read Public Enemy to learn more about Ayers radical past and how he dealt with the vicious media coverage after the appearance of Fugitive Days around 9/11, the death threats, and the media efforts to discredit Obama because Ayers had been a supporter. However, in reading the book, I discovered many other features of Ayers’ life and thought that provided a more balanced picture of the events, the times and the roles that Ayers played and his perspective on a wide range of social issues and movements. As a teacher educator myself, I was particularly drawn to those aspects of his life which dealt with teaching and education. But I also chuckled at his humorous retelling of anecdotes and his description of some of his detractors, and fascinated by the wide range of people who became supporters throughout a broad range of organizations and causes. I was appalled reading some of the reviews of this book. It seems as if many of these reviewers have been watching too much of Fox News or are already committed to their previous views of unidimensional media portrayals of Ayers.
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