Professor Never recounts my experience as a student, mother, and then adjunct English professor pursuing a career as a tenured professor in the twelve years between 1994 and 2006. The story begins when I was a passionate but naïve graduate student who believed she had found her calling. It follows with my plunge into the world of low-paid university instructors, my efforts to win a tenure-track job after earning my PhD, and the juggling act I undertook to achieve my goals while raising two children.
The memoir culminates in 2006 with my excruciating decision to leave university life behind, but the book does more than recount the bitterness of that loss. Instead, as I make peace with my decision to leave academe, the writing celebrates the language and literature I studied while offering a rare record of academic life that connects the experiences of graduate school to the conditions of contingent labor. The writing also addresses broader questions such as: What kind of compensation (financial, inspirational, educational) should we expect from our work? And how can primary caregivers, who must divide their time between work and home, achieve their goals in highly competitive professions?
An excerpt of Professor Never appeared in the May 2020 volume Furious Gravity, a publication of the D.C. women writers series Grace and Gravity. Other excerpts have appeared in Literary Mama and Creative Nonfiction. The latter was reprinted by Literary Hub and was nominated for a 2016 Pushcart Prize. Personal pieces about academic life that include content from the memoir have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.
I have a PhD in American literature from the University of Maryland and have five years’ experience teaching college-level composition and literature. Since leaving my adjunct teaching position in 2006, I have worked as a freelance writer and editor in Fairfax, Virginia.