by Calvin Reid -- Publishers Weekly,
Teachers College Press, a scholarly, professional and trade publisher
focused on the theory and practice of teacher education, has reached
agreement on a two-book deal with William Ayers, the University of
Illinois at Chicago professor, lauded educational theorist and former
leader of the radical 1960s Weather Underground. And, yes, Ayers is
indeed the same figure dragooned into the 2008 presidential race in a
controversial attempt to use his background in radical politics and a
minor acquaintance with Barack Obama to undermine Obama's presidential run.
In spring 2010, TCP will publish a graphic novel adaptation of To
Teach: The Journey of a Teacher, a much-praised memoir of Ayers's
life as a teacher, tentatively to be called To Teach: The Graphic
Memoir with art by Xeric Award-winner Ryan Alexander-Tanner. More
than a simple memoir, To Teach is also a peer-reviewed work of
scholarship on Ayers's teaching precepts as well as a vivid
recollection of his adventures in the classroom. At the same time,
TCP will publish a new and revised third edition of the original
prose To Teach: The Journey of a Teache. One of TCP's all-time
bestselling titles, To Teach was originally published in 1993 and has
sold more than 75,000 copies over three printings, the last one
released in 2001.
"For an academic/scholarly press, that's a major bestseller," noted
TCP acquisitions editor Meg Lemke, who "co-acquired" the book with
TCP director Carol Saltz, who will edit the new prose edition. Lemke
will oversee the production of the graphic edition. Despite the media
hoopla over his radical past, Ayers is a serious and much respected
Chicago-based educational activist and theorist who has been with TCP
for years and published at least five books at the house. Ayers is
also the series editor of TCP's Teaching Social Justice series of
titles. (Fugitive Days, Ayers's memoir of his past as a radical
political activist, is published by Beacon Press.) The idea to
produce a graphic novel version of Ayers's book came after TCP
contacted him about an updated edition of To Teach, which was revised
in 2001. "It was a collaborative idea among Carol, myself and Bill,"
The artist for the project, Alexander-Tanner, has won a Xeric Award
(a grant presented in support of self-published comics). A former
student of Ayers's brother Rick, Alexander-Tanner had done interviews
with William Ayers for a series of cartoons about him and was an easy
pick to illustrate the project. Alexander-Tanner, who lives in
Portland, Ore., even moved to Chicago to live in Ayers's house for
five months to fully collaborate on the adaptation.
Lemke called the graphic novel adaptation "well-written and drawn,
serious but still funny and inspiring," and compared it to such
graphic nonfiction works as Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis. She said To
Teach is "a popular course adoption text and we think the graphic
adaptation will pair with this for courses at the high school as well
as college level, and become an even more widely loved 'gift book'
for aspiring progressive teachers and anyone working with youth."