House Hold

A Memoir of Place


“Makes my Heart go Pitter Pat”

AuthorGroupie Reviews House Hold

“Whew!  What I thought to be a memoir consisting of memories related to places turned out to be so much more in Ann Peters’ House Hold:  A Memoir of Place.  Peters, an English professor, also offers the reader a mini survey course of sorts of literature which pertains to dwellings.

Raised in Wisconsin and eventually finding her way to New York City, Peters describes the architecture of each home as well as the people associated with said residences using insightful rhetoric:

Homesickness, the longing for a familiar landscape, was part of it, and homesickness, of course, has as much to do with what one wanted and didn’t get as it does with the facts of the past.  (12)

I liked the reminiscing, but still I was surprised by it. . . .

It occurred to me that the requirements for authenticity had changed, no longer defined by staying put, but by a hunger for shared memory. . . . Of course , lots of people were still around who could talk to Betty about those early days, but it was as if my memories seemed more pure because they had not been altered by the new taverns or been crowded out by all the new people who had since moved out to the ledge.  In leaving I’d frozen the Holy Land in time.  (81)

Besides her deep analysis, Peters presents the players in her memoir with uncanny description:

In obvious ways, Kathryn was the more urbane of the two, the one who seemed most like what I imagined city people to be- quick, competitve, fast talking.  She had a flair for satire and for rage.  I see, fuzzily, the Watergate trials blasting from a television and then my grandmother, a lifelong Democrat, cursing from the couch before sending a book hurtling at the screen.  At the bridge table, she bested all the ladies in town, and when she played Scrabble with her grandchildren, she would not be moved by discrepancies in age or education, giggling gleefully when she dropped her xon the triple letter score. (118)

Oooh, how I love that above description of her grandmother.

Furthermore, Peters philosophy on teaching and reading makes my heart go pitter pat:

I usually tell my students that on a second reading of a book, you go back and notice what you are trying to ignore or resist.  Or you identify the places in the text that lull you, the places where you find yourself unthinkingly giving in.  (214)

When discussing Jefferson, the summer/weekend home purchased by Peters and her husband, she tells of the need to tackle the perennial garden and raised vegetable gardens already in place.  Although admiring her mother’s gardening as a child, “. . . [Peters] never paid attention to how she created it. . . . So much excitement at the beginning.  By August, vegetables rotting on the vine” (238).  With a smile, this quote brought to mind my own laziness in terms of gardening especially towards the end of the growing season.

A discussion of House Hold:  A Memoir of Place accompanied with a small tray of cheese and olives as Peters often did with Dee at 113 1/2 West Fifteenth Street would be ideal for that feeling of home.

Read the full article….


Memoirist Takes Reader from Fond du Lac to NYC

The Capital Times’s Stephanie Bedford Interviews Peters on her new book, House Hold.

“Peters….has written a book that charts her life’s journey so far through the buildings she’s lived in and the books that shaped her thought, and tells of the surprising ways in which they overlap. The memoir is as hard to describe as it is engaging to read. House Hold weaves personal narrative with the writing and lives of authors Peters has read and studied — writers like Henry James and Willa Cather, whose vivid descriptions of place are essential to understanding their fictional characters.

‘I really wanted to write a book that somehow could be both true to myself as a reader, and true to myself as a writer,’ said Peters in a recent phone interview. ‘I wanted to show how my sense of place is both coming out of my personal experience and connected to the stuff I read and teach.’ In combining the story of her journey from her childhood home to her adult life in New York City with history and literature, Peters hits on common truths about the universal search for a home.

With her acute eye for detail, Peters points out the way some of her favorite authors have drawn on memories of their own surroundings in creating fictional places. In doing so, she also reconstructs the lives of her parents — especially her father, a restless entrepreneur whose forward-thinking architectural design was literally the landscape of Peter’s childhood….”

Read the full article….


Brooklyn Daily Eagle: “Brooklyn Author To Launch Poignant Memoir in DUMBO”

Samantha Samel interviews author Ann Peters

Peters: “What do you learn about the meaning of home when you are watching a neighborhood transform, almost, it seems, in the blink of an eye, outside your window? And how do you deal with the fact that you are resenting the changes to a neighborhood (the “intruders”) when you yourself were someone else’s intruder? In a way, Brooklyn in the last fifteen years has taught me something about America, even about my childhood and the rural area where I grew up. Unless you are a Native American—and maybe not even then— this state of believing a place was yours first is always fraught, always complicated. It forces you to take a hard look at yourself.”

Read the full article and interview…


“You may never look at yourself or the place you live in the same way”

Excerpted from Amos Lassen’s Review of House Hold 

“Peters reflects on the romance of pastoral retreat, the hazards of nostalgia, America’s history of expansion and land ownership, and the conflicted desires to put down roots and to hit the road. Throughout House Hold, she asks us how places make us who we are. Do we need to have a place to call home if we want to live an authentic life and if we want to belong somewhere?

…I do not remember being so enrapt in a book before…. You may never look at yourself or the place you live in the same way.”



Kirkus Reviews

“Peters (English/Stern Coll., Yeshiva Univ.) grew up in Wisconsin in a quirky house designed and built by her father. Perched on a hill overlooking woods and farms, the house reappears as the central image in the author’s lyrical memoir—not just of her family and childhood, but of her lifelong struggle to reconcile ‘the call to take root, the call to set forth.’“

Read the full review…



Peters writes beautifully of the meaning of authenticity and the need to belong…a strong and compelling perspective on the sense of place in life and literature…”

Read the full review….


Margot Peters on House Hold

“Peters has engagingly blended her experiences of ‘dwelling’ and the final impossibility of possessing space with the experiences of American writers such as Henry James, Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, Paule Marshall, and William Maxwell.”

— Margot Peters, author of Lorine Niedecker: A Poet’s Life


Christopher Bakken on House Hold

“House Hold sketches the progress of one woman’s life according to the blueprint of those spaces—architectural and familial and literary—she has inhabited. Here is an autobiography told through buildings and books, then, and the characters that inhabit both are vividly rendered and entirely memorable.”

— Christopher Bakken, author of Honey, Olives, Octopus


Willard Spiegelman on House Hold

“Ann Peters’s House Hold has the makings of an American classic. A perceptive and deeply affecting book about childhood and place.” — Alice Kaplan, author of French Lessons, Yale University
“The places, houses, and even the smallest rooms we inhabit also inhabit us. These places exist in our memory, and tie us to them well after we have left them. In House Hold, Ann Peters has built a literary edifice that seamlessly combines memoir, meditation, and literary analysis. From Wisconsin to the boroughs of New York City and, at last, a farmhouse in upstate New York, Peters brings alive for herself and her readers the places she has lived in and dreamed of.”

— Willard Spiegelman, author of Seven Pleasures: Essays on Ordinary Happiness


Honor Moore on House Hold

“At a moment when the American dream of home is in jeopardy, comes Ann Peters’s utterly engaging and singular memoir. Telling the stories of the houses she has inhabited, the landscapes, writers and people who have given her life meaning, she reminds us the search for home is also a quest for the soul’s refuge and that an account of the places of one’s life can be a source of revelation.”

— Honor Moore, Author of The Bishop’s Daughter