Can’t say we saw this one coming: Were you aware that somebody has published an erotic novella set during the Chicago teachers’ strike of September 2012? Well, it’s true.
The Teacher’s Strike, by Gabby Matthews (a pseudonym), debuted as a Kindle e-book on Amazon last month. It’s billed as adult “historical fiction"—kind of like “Selma meets 50 Shades of Grey” (but at only 87 pages), according to the Chicago Reader.
According to the promotional copy, the story chronicles the forbidden relationship between a troubled—though of age—high school student and a former classmate, now a young Chicago teacher and union activist, who (of course) “walks back into his life.” The pair’s apparently quite torrid romance plays out amid the unexpected freedom and political tensions of the 8-day teachers’ strike.
The strike, you may recall, became a focal point of the national conversation on education at the start of the 2012 school year, pitting the powerful Chicago Teachers Union, led by its firebrand president Karen Lewis, against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s reform-driven policy agenda. “Matthews” is said to have conducted “extensive research” on the conflict, “weaving complex narrative that seamlessly blends perilous romantic intimacy with sultry political struggle.” Lewis reportedly figures as a minor character in the story.
Politically, the book appears to be sympathetic to the teachers’ cause, but that hasn’t stopped CTU from objecting to its original cover, which showed the teacher character wearing a shirt with the union’s logo on it. (We know, it could have been worse, right?) According to the Reader, a lawyer representing the CTU sent an email to the author demanding—in cringe-inducing legal prose—that the logo be removed from the cover, “because [the union] does not want to be associated with ‘a new erotic spanking novel,’ as the review describes it.”
“Matthews,” in reality a 31-year-old former Chicago man now living in Arizona, has agreed to comply, but he told the Reader he was disappointed with the union’s stance, saying “it implies prudish, conservative sentiments on gender and sexuality.”
Matthews maintains that, despite its genre affiliations, his book is meant to highlight the serious issues raised by the Chicago strike. “Economic strangulation in Chicago and elsewhere expressed through cuts to education and other public resources—these are life-and-death matters,” he said. “If erotic fiction can help raise these issues in new, creative ways, that’s what I care about.”
So, if you’re interested in reading the book, you could conceivably make a case that it’s work-related. But be forewarned that, when asked what the book would be rated if it were a movie, the issues-oriented Matthews allowed that even “X” might be too tame.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.