Professor Never recounts what it’s like to study and work in today’s universities, where tuition is at an all-time high, instructor pay is at an all-time low, and parents—especially mothers—are all but invisible. The university is a world ruled by money, prestige, and rigor—in that order. But I didn’t understand that when first drawn in by my love for literature and teaching. The story begins with my experiences as a naïve and passionate student who believes she has found her calling. It follows with my plunge into the unjust world of low-paid university instructors, my efforts to win a tenure-track job after earning my Ph.D., and the juggling act I undertook to overcome the impossible odds of the 21st century academic job market while raising two children. The memoir culminates when, faced with the excruciating decision between saving myself and pursuing my career, I leave university life—and my dreams—behind.
Most book-length accounts of academic life are survival guides or comedies, including those that deal with motherhood. In contrast, Professor Never humanizes academics by showing what it’s like to be both an aspiring professor and a parent. While the story takes place in an academic setting, the voice is colloquial and the themes —balancing career with family, finding meaningful work for meaningful pay, and love of learning—are universal. Current debates about gender equality in the workplace and skyrocketing university spending and tuition make this the right time to publish Professor Never.
Excerpts of Professor Never have appeared in Literary Mama and Creative Nonfiction. The latter excerpt was reprinted on the website Literary Hub and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Personal pieces about academic life that include excerpts from the memoir have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. Since leaving the academy, I have worked as a freelance writer and editor.
I am currently seeking representation for Professor Never and can be reached at dwerrlein (at) gmail (dot) com.