The heat generated during tense contract negotiations isn’t something you’d typically equate with the burning passion of young lust, but that’s the theme behind The Teacher’s Strike, a new erotic “spanking novel” out this week on Amazon Kindle.
The book is billed as the first historical fiction about the eight-day Chicago Teachers Union strike in September 2012. A press release calls it “Selma meets 50 Shades of Grey,” a “political thrill ride about a tumultuous love affair between a young high school teacher/union activist and her student as the two star-crossed lovers navigate the unpredictable waters of a citywide labor strike.” The cover features a woman in a low-cut red shirt bearing the CTU logo.
Why use the Chicago teachers’ strike as a backdrop for an X-rated story? “I was living in Chicago at the time when the strike was huge news,” says the book’s author, a man who uses the pen name Gabby Matthews. (He spoke on the condition of anonymity due to his role as a political activist.) “I’m a lover of double entendres, so I thought a teachers’ strike would be a good hit for a spanking book.” (Notice the title’s strategic placement of the apostrophe before “strike.”)
“The publisher asked what it would be rated if it were a movie, and I said triple X,” the author says. “There’s straight-up sex scenes in there—anatomical details.”
While the plot is dominated by an inappropriate affair between a troubled 19-year-old student named Telly and a new, youngish teacher named Clair, it also contains dirt about the real-life 2012 labor battle based on research “Matthews” did in preparation for the book. One character is modeled after CTU president Karen Lewis. “She has a different name and is a different character,” the author says, “but she’s a strong union leader and the way she articulates her passion is like Lewis.”
And Mayor Rahm Emanuel? He’s the “unseen antagonist,” the author says. “People talk about him, but he’s not really a character you encounter in the book. People are affected by his policies, but I didn’t want to give him a role. He and the city take up so much space and attention already.”
The author—he now lives in Arizona and says he’s a freelance journalist and academic (“I gave a lecture recently about erotica and social struggle called ‘Fucking, Falling in Love, and Radical Politics: Erotica as Social Struggle'”)—also filled the book with references to labor history, such as homages to union leader Eugene V. Debs, anarchist Emma Goldman, and labor and community organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones.
“Chicago has such a rich history of labor and vibrant and robust political traditions, I wanted to subtly put that into the book.”
But don’t get “Matthews” wrong—despite all the historical elements, he says, the book’s still a total spankfest, one that’s in good company in the history of kinky lit. “I was rereading Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Huck has a spanking fetish. It’s clear, right in the text—and this is popular literature,” he says. “Spanking is normal, and it’s all around us.”
Correction: This post has been amended to reflect the name of the author’s lecture.