An exiled professor’s journey from inside and beyond academe
In the summer of 2014, Steven Salaita was fired from a tenured position in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois for his unwavering stance on Palestinian human rights and other political controversies. A year later, he landed a job in Lebanon, but that, too, ended badly. With no other recourse, Salaita found himself trading his successful academic career for an hourly salaried job. Told primarily from behind the wheel of a school bus—a vantage point from which Salaita explores social anxiety, suburban architecture, political alienation, racial oppression, working-class solidarity, professional malfeasance, and the joy of chauffeuring children to and from school—An Honest Living describes the author’s decade of turbulent post-professorial life and his recent return to the lectern.
Steven Salaita was practically born to a life in academia. His father taught physics at an HBCU in southern West Virginia and his earliest memories are of life on campus and the cinder walls of the classroom. It was no surprise that he ended up in the classroom straight after graduate school. Yet three of his university jobs—Virginia Tech, the University of Illinois, and the American University of Beirut [AUB] —ended in public controversy. Shaken by his sudden notoriety and false claims of antisemitism, Salaita found himself driving a school bus to make ends meet. While some considered this just punishment for his anti-Zionist beliefs, Steven found that driving a bus provided him with not just a means to pay the bills but a path toward freedom of thought.
Now ten years later, with a job at American University at Cairo, Salaita reconciles his past with his future. His restlessness has found a home, yet his return to academe is met with the same condition of fugitivity from whence he was expelled: an occasion for defiance, not conciliation. An Honest Living presents an intimate personal narrative of the author’s decade of professional joys and travails.