cover image Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident

Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident

Bill Ayers. Beacon, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3276-3

In this witty and spirited follow-up to Fugitive Days, Weather Underground cofounder Ayers chronicles his return to society after years on the lam as well as life after being branded a “terrorist” by Sarah Palin during Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, an accusation that led to rampant death threats. 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. After the election, Ayers sent Palin a note “suggesting that we launch a talk show together called ‘Palling Around with Sarah and Bill.’ ” He also hilariously chronicles his conversation with right-wing blogger Ann Leary as to whether he was the real author of Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father. 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. Readers will likely agree with television host Stephen Colbert that Ayers is “a sixties radical who planted a bomb in the Capitol Building and then went on to even more heinous crimes by becoming a college professor.” Oftentimes riotously funny, yet also plainspoken and serious, this is a memoir of impressive range. (Nov.)