The University of Wisconsin Press

Memoir / Literature & Criticism / Architecture & Landscape

House Hold
A Memoir of Place
Ann Peters

House Hold has the makings of an American classic: a perceptive and deeply affecting book about belonging to a place and yet never quite belonging.”
—Alice Kaplan, Yale University

Like the house built by Ann Peters’s father on a hill in eastern Wisconsin, House Hold offers many views: cornfields and glacial lakes, fast food parking lots and rural highways, Manhattan apartments and Brooklyn brownstones. Peters revisits the modern split-level where she grew up in Wisconsin, remembering her architect father. Against the background of this formative space, she charts her roaming story through two decades of New York City apartments, before traveling to a cabin in the mountains of Colorado and finally purchasing an old farmhouse in upstate New York.

More than a memoir of remembered landscapes, House Hold is also an expansive contemplation of America, a meditation on place and property, and an exploration of how literature shapes our thinking about the places we live. A gifted prose stylist, Peters seamlessly combines her love of buildings with her love of books. She wanders through the rooms of her past but also through what Henry James called “the house of fiction,” interweaving personal narrative with musings on James, Willa Cather, William Dean Howells, Paule Marshall, William Maxwell, and others. 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 how places make us who we are.

Ann Peters is associate professor of English at Stern College, Yeshiva University, and the recipient of the 2012 McGinnis Ritchie Award for Nonfiction. She lives in Brooklyn and in upstate New York.


“Peters writes beautifully on the meaning of authenticity and the need to belong.”

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: Adventures at the Greek Table

“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 that 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

“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

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Of Related Interest
An African American Life in Search of Justice
Sylvia Bell White and Jody LePage
“A fascinating biography, adding important insight into the African American experience in Wisconsin as well as the broader histories of migration, race, and employment in the twentieth-century United States.”—William P. Jones, author of The Tribe of Black Ulysses: African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow South


February 2014
LC: 2013011470 PS
286 pp.   5 1/2 x 8 1/4  
14 b/w photos

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Cloth $26.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-29620-9
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