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First Person

Ladette Randolph on her memoir, ‘Leaving the Pink House’

In her forthcoming book, the editor of Emerson College’s literary magazine, “Ploughshares,” plumbs the meaning of family and past houses.

Ladette Randolph in front of her latest home, a Roslindale condo.

Aram Boghosian

Ladette Randolph in front of her latest home, a Roslindale condo.

I decided to write this book because when my husband and I undertook this huge, huge house reconstruction [in Nebraska], I felt it had been such an overwhelming experience in my life that I needed a way to understand it. I had not wanted to leave the house we were leaving, the beloved pink house, even after we moved into the country house and I came to love it. I needed a way to come to grips with that experience.

I thought the memoir genre was of interest because I had been an acquiring editor for many years at the University of Nebraska Press. I had been reading and acquiring — and rejecting — memoirs for many years. I had an idea what I was looking for in a memoir: It wasn’t perfection but authenticity and a certain kind of life on the page.

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My husband is not a writer; he doesn’t need writing to understand the world like I do. I think all along he felt “What’s the story? Why tell about this?” — in part because he wasn’t aware there is a sub-genre of the memoir focused on houses. There are a lot of books about people remodeling houses together.

The most difficult moment of the country house project was that initial phase where we really had done something impulsive, and we are not impulsive people. We were putting ourselves at risk, financially and emotionally. It was so scary.

If you’re embarking on something like [a house renovation], the odds are very, very good that you will need other people to help you. You say you are doing the work yourself, but almost always things like this do involve other people. We

had generous friends and family who helped us.  

FOR MORE Randolph’s memoir, Leaving the Pink House, will be published September 1. The following day at 8 p.m. she’ll host a live video chat to raise money for the Boston Book Festival; visit wizeo.me to join the chat.

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