In Love with Defeat: The Making of a Southern Liberal
6 x 9
January 1, 2013
The journey of writer and publisher Brandt Ayers took him from the segregated Old South to a newly minted civilization, the New South.
Ayers was a young reporter and editor in Raleigh, Washington, and Alabama in the crucible of the civil-rights struggle, covering an enlightened state government in North Carolina, writing about the origins of civil-rights legislation as a Washington correspondent in the Kennedy years, and serving as editor of his family’s hometown newspaper, the Anniston Star. The journey was one of controversy and danger—a racist nightrider murder, taut moments when the community teetered on the edge of mob violence. The narrative includes outsized figures such as United States attorney general Robert Kennedy and features probing insights into Alabama governor George Wallace as he evolved over time. High points of the story involve the birth of the New South movement, the election of a Southern president, the strange undoing of his presidency, the end of the New South, and diplomatic and journalistic ventures into other nations with histories as hard as, or harder than, that of the South: Russia, China, and South Africa. An afterword, made imperative by the election of a black president, bridges the years from the disappearance of the New South in the 1980s to Barack Obama’s first term.
"A disarmingly honest, richly revealing and entertaining remembrance in which local events are placed in the larger context of national politics and policy. Readers of all political persuasions will find Mr. Ayers’ book rewarding, for this Alabaman’s story is really about all of us."
"In Love With Defeat is a book that thoughtful Southerners -- and ignorant outlanders—would do well to read and ponder. . . . Ayers has every reason to be proud of the role he and his newspaper played in keeping Anniston from becoming a racial battlefield like Selma or Birmingham. But this memoir, unlike so many others, is not an exercise in self-congratulation. In fact it’s something of a very different order, more of a lament for a bright, lost moment when the much-trumpeted "New South" seemed to promise a racial, social, and educational transformation as dramatic as its economic rebirth." — Oxford American
"A distinguished memoir full of wit, wisdom, and good reporting. Brandt Ayers is one of those notable heirs of the knight of La Mancha, resolved to better his world, heedless of cynicism. If this was in some ways an impossible dream, he stuck to his mission, and Anniston, Alabama, the South, and the nation are the better for it." —Ed Yoder, The Weekly Standard
"Brandt Ayers has come as close as anybody ever has to explaining who we Southerners are and why we act as we do." —Governor William Winter
"This book is part memoir and part history lesson all bound up in cautionary tale, told through the eyes of a newspaperman and newspaper owner who traveled the world and saw parallels and lessons with every stamp of his passport. Brandt Ayers always understood that his paper could be a force of good for even the weakest of its readership, and it is high time he told this personal story, as a kind of punctuation to that worthy tale." —Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prince of Frogtown and Ava’s Man
"Clear eyed and perceptive, grounded in community and global in outlook, Brandt Ayers has spent a brave lifetime of commentary calling his beloved South to redemption. Now, summarizing that lifetime as a family newspaperman in Anniston, Alabama, Ayers eloquently insists that the road, though rocky, has been up, and that South and nation are more nearly one than at any time since the founding of the Republic." —Hodding Carter III, Professor of Leadership and Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
"During my half century of writing about Alabama, I have seldom encountered a more fascinating family than the Ayers of Anniston. For three generations, they have supplied us with some of our most independent thinking and acting citizens: Two generations of Baptist medical missionaries to China; three generations of our best newspaper editors and contributors to education and culture. Most importantly, as Brandt Ayers' memoir makes clear, they have been courageous champions of a different path in civic and public life, one (if followed) would have made Alabama a lot better place to live than it is." —Wayne Flynt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Auburn University History Department
"Brandy Ayers cares deeply for his Alabama and the American South. If both often fell short of his aspirations for them, he never felt them a lost cause. Ayers serves as a personable, insightful guide through his own life and times. I will add this memoir to my students' reading list of books by Southern journalists." —Ferrel Guillory, Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Director of the Program on Public Life, University of North Carolina
"Many of us southern liberals leave home and take our stand from a safe, bug-free distance. But Ayers has remained righteous in his time and place. He held his ground on the right side of history—in print—when it was dangerous to be on the wrong side of the regional status quo. That Ayers is one of the wittiest storytellers in the South—which is to say, the universe—makes this a pleasure as well an inspiration, a nuanced portrait of an individual struggling against the historic odds with honor and humor." —Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
"Insightful and entertaining." —Anniston Star
" Writing with historical perception, political awareness, and abiding sensitivity, Brandt Ayers has given a history of the South’s painful road from Civil War to the latest New South. —Alabama Writers Forum
"In Love with Defeat is an intriguing political look at life going against the grain." —Midwest Book Review
"A richly anecdotal look at Alabama’s last half century." —Bookmark, Alabama Public Radio
"Readers will find an enduring value here. . . . Ayers can tell a story. Heconveys a sense of place with an awareness of the humanity of those about whom he writes, no matter which side they are on. . . . His boundless curiosity, humanity, down home goodness, straight shooter honesty and greatness of heart are all manifest in this good book. —The Decatur Daily
"Ayers's narrative truly brings the struggle for equality in the South to life." —Wooster School News
"Throughout, Ayers attempts to explain in a clear voice what has happened in the South during his lifetime, what it means to be a Southerner and what it will mean in the future." —The Florida Times-Union