Fugitive Days

Fugitive Days

3.8 6
by William Ayers

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Bill Ayers was born in privilege and is today a highly respected educator and community activist. For ten years, he lived as a fugitive. Ayers's story of how a young pacifist came to help found one of the most radical political organizations in U.S. history is told here with amazing candor and immediacy.

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Bill Ayers was born in privilege and is today a highly respected educator and community activist. For ten years, he lived as a fugitive. Ayers's story of how a young pacifist came to help found one of the most radical political organizations in U.S. history is told here with amazing candor and immediacy.

Editorial Reviews

Cleveland Plain Dealer
Ayers has a knack for captur ing the spirit of his times: the shallow optimism of the 1950s, the intoxi cating atmos phere of freedom in the mid-'60s, the sense after the mayhem of 1968 that things were rapidly falling apart. . . . What is most interesting to watch, however, is Ayers' slow transformation from starry-eyed idealist to bomb-throwing fugitive. What started as a bighearted but politically vague sympathy for the poor and oppressed metamorphosed into a fierce and all-consuming antagonism toward the government fighting the war in Vietnam. In a matter of two or three years, the gentle soul who had taught school in community cooperatives was fighting street battles with the Chicago police, and not much later was planting explosives in bathrooms at the Pentagon."
Library Journal
"Memory is a motherf***er," 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 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An overblown yet oddly sketchy memoir recalling Ayers's days in the Weather Underground. A spin-off of the leftist, antiwar group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the Weather Underground was formed in the late 1960s by a few hundred militant college students who became notorious as bombers after blowing up a policeman's statue in Chicago and a bathroom in the Pentagon. They also induced violent riots and masterminded Timothy Leary's prison escape. Members rationalized their terrorism in revolutionary terms. As Ayers tells it, "I was a full-time peace activist . . . our future existence hung in the balance. It fell to us-and we were just kids-to save the world." Ayers captivates with heartfelt recollections of his friends in the Black Panthers, feminist groups, and Vietnam, attesting to his sincere wish to create a better world. Unfortunately, his passion cripples his credibility; he spends more time divulging emotions than describing his participation in terrorist acts, leaving us to wonder what actions he took and how effective they were. Much of this riveting American history is conveyed in rambling exposition that at its best moments has a Kerouac-like looseness, but more frequently denies significant characters and events the depth they deserve. Ayers's memories are selective to the point of incomprehensibility. He goes on and on about his affair with "Diana," later killed during an accidental explosion in a Weather Underground bomb factory, without bothering to mention her last name. (It was Oughton.) When he first meets SDS leader Bernadine Dohrn, she's got a boyfriend Ayers finds intimidating; the next thing we know Bill and Bernadine are living together, with no explanation of where the boyfriend went. Although his fast-paced chronicle is at times explosive, Ayers too often rushes past intimate details and simply lists events rather than reenacting them in real time. Younger readers who weren't around during the Vietnam protest era will still feel like they're missing something.

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Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.42(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.04(d)

What People are saying about this

Scott Turow
This is a precious book, not simply because it offers a gripping personal account of the primal American suspense story of life on the run, but, more important, because it re-creates a critical point of view and way of thinking that we seem, even a few decades later, barely able to recall.
Studs Terkel
A memoir that is, in effect, a deeply moving elegy to all those young dreamers who tried to live decently in an indecent world. Ayers provides a tribute to those better angels of ourselves.
Hunter S. Thompson
A wild and painful ride�

Meet the Author

William Ayers is a long-time teacher and activist, award-winning education writer and reformer, and professor at the University of Illinois. He and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn, live in Chicago.

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3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a graduate student in the education department at UIC, I have yet to take a course with Bill Ayers. He is extremely well respected in his teaching capacity and is liked by students and teachers alike. I read this book because it has generated so much controversy. Whether or not one agrees with the politics, views and events that happened some 30 years ago, Ayers gives the reader an inside view, albeit disturbing at times, into his location during a turbulent time in America. This is a memoir - bashing Ayers for telling his story from his point of view detracts from the purpose of writing down his history. While I certainly don¿t agree with much of the actions taken by the Weatherman, it is very refreshing to listen to an alternative viewpoint regarding events in America¿s history. I keep trying to relate Weatherman¿s actions in light of the events of September 11th in order to understand the fury behind such hatred of governments. That understanding has not yet come to me, but I keep remembering that people are not created equally nor do all people think the same. Fugitive Days is a disturbing, but honest manifesto about one man¿s recollection of his early adult life. If you enjoy autobiographies, history and good writing, you should read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.' The problem with Ayers' book is he didn't learn anything from his experiences: You don't play with fire, you don't attempt to blow up the Pentagon, etc... AND HE DOES NOT RULE OUT TRYING TO BOMB THE PENTAGON AGAIN!

SHAME on Ayers (and Dohrn, his wife) and shame on Barnes and Noble for promoting this TRAITOR.

But don't take my word for it. Read the recent (11-09-2001) articles in various newspapers, magazines and internet sites which give a more complete picture of these dangerous people.

Osama bin Laden succeeded where Ayers failed in bombing the Pentagon, which killed more people than the Oklahoma City bombing. He is of the same mindset as Tim McVeigh and may ultimately share his fate.

Guest More than 1 year ago
While Ayers' book is no worse than I expected, it is no better either. It shares company with many other 60s' radicals' memoirs in romanticizing the period as well as the political naivete. So far, not much of a problem. But Ayers romaticizes the anti-social attitudes and acts as well, justifying them even now, and exalting immature nihilism to the status of legitimate--even, laudable-- social behavior. Worse still, Ayers' book is childishly written: filled with innane jokes about serious matters, glossing over meaningful political argument in favor of canned rhetoric and gleeful anti-authority declarations. For anyone who remembers those times, or who has studied them extensively, Ayers' book rings loudly with a basic dishonesty that is almost a deliberate insult to his readers. It is just possible that the memoirs are more of the same radical-chic game: delude and co-opt the very people you are depending upon for support because, hey, after all, they are part of the 'ruling hegemony' and 'we' are the 'elite Marxist radicals who know better.' Readers interested in the period should read Todd Gitlin's THE SIXTIES instead. While it is also self-indulgent, defensive of naivete, and selective, it is, at base, more honest and reflective. Further, follow it with Todd Gitlin's THE TWILIGHT OF COMMON DREAMS to put all that radical posturing into perspective. The latter book illustrates meaningful social activism and 'inclusiveness' in contrast with the 60s' (and Ayers')pervasive focus on Divisiveness and Confrontation as ends in themselves.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ayers' prose is an intriguing look at the '60s underground and the politics and personalities that inspired it. Many books sensationalizing these times or which have been penned purely from the (often misleading) police perspective are out. This one is right from one of those involved. Great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bill Ayers was a member of the radical left-wing Weathermen group, and his memoir, Fugitive Days, recounts his time on the lamb from the FBI. The political stance of the Weathermen might seem strange to most of us now, but Ayers places it in the context of the escalating Vietnam war and Civil Rights movement and tries to show what these young, idealistic, left-wing lunatics were trying to do. It makes an incredibly interesting, suspenseful, and gripping story. It's like reading 'On The Road' and 'The Anarchist's Handbook' at the same time. I loved it.