David Faris C’00 thought he might be on to something. A column he had written in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election for The Week, the national news magazine to which he is a regular contributor, outlined what Democrats need to do to regain power in Washington. Soon, the column, “It’s Time to Fight Dirty,” had turned into a series of like-minded musings, and by January 2017, Faris, a political science professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago, thought those columns, taken collectively, had the makings of a good book. Did they?
He knew one person who could tell him: a college friend, Susan Rella C’01. As under- grads, Faris and Rella had worked many late nights together at The Acorn. (In 2000, Rella succeeded Faris as editor-in-chief.) And now his former colleague was the managing editor of Melville House, a publishing company based in Brooklyn.
So Faris reached out and told her about his “crazy idea” for a book. Supportive, Rella put him in touch with an editor, who asked for a proposal. And then he waited.
“Sue was a big advocate for the project and was really excited about it,” says Faris, whose academic work spans (and connects) global digital activism and American and Middle Eastern politics. But a good word from Rella did not guarantee a book contract, so Faris “sweated it out” through the winter and early spring of 2017. “In April,” he says, “they wrote to me and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ ”
The Acorn alums’ collaboration continued through the editing phase, with Rella ferrying changes back to Faris for his approval. Over a period of three or four months, as the manuscript was being finalized, Rella worked on the book daily.
The result, which hit bookstores in April: It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. Faris contends the task may not be as Sisyphean as it might appear. He favors statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., calls for doubling the House of Representatives (which hasn’t been en- larged since 1909, despite a national population gain of 200 million) and promotes ranked choice voting, in which voters choose multiple candidates in order of preference.
For Rella, the collaboration with Faris brought back memories of the bond they formed while working those long nights on The Acorn. “He and I got along really well,” she recalls. “We both had kind of slightly sarcastic personalities. He was really funny, and he still is really funny. That shows through in this book.”