Journalist and publisher Brandt Ayers's journey takes him from the segregated Old South to covering the central scenes of the civil rights struggle, and finally to editorship of his family’s hometown newspaper, The Anniston Star. The journey was one of controversy, danger, a racist nightrider murder, taut moments when the community teetered on the edge of mob violence that ended well because of courageous civic leadership and wise hearts of black and white leaders. The narrative has outsized figures from U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to George Wallace and includes probing insights into the Alabama governor as he evolved over time. High points of the story involve the birth of a New South movement, the election of a Southern President, and the strange undoing of his presidency. An afterword, made imperative by the cultural and political exclamation point of a black President, bridges the years from the disappearance of the New South in the 1980s to Barack Obama’s first term.
Readers will find an enduring value here ... Ayers can tell a story. He conveys 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 Source 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
A richly anecdotal look at Alabama’s last half-century.
—Don Noble, Bookmark
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.
—Edwin Yoder, Jr., The Weekly Standard
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's 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.
—Dr. Wayne Flynt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus, Auburn University History Department
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
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.
—Bill Plott, Alabama Writers Forum
This a good book written by a man who has seen his native South thrash and wail. This book is part memoir and part history lesson all bound up in a cautionary tale, told through the eyes of a newspaperman and newspaper owner who traveled the world and saw parallels and lessons with every stamp on 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, author of The Prince of Frogtown and Ava’s Man
Brandt 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
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’s book rewarding, for this Alabamian’s story is really about all of us.
—Ray Hartwell, Washington Times
Better reading even the second time around. In Love with Defeat
is the best commentary on us Southerners I have ever read.
—William Winter, former Mississippi governor
In Love with Defeat
is an intriguing political look at life going against the grain.
—Midwest Book Review
Insightful and entertaining.
—Glen Browder, Anniston Star
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.
—Hal Crowther, Oxford American
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