Margaret Randall in conversation with Garrett Caples
Thursday, May 7, 2020, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
discussing the subject of Margaret Randall's new book
I Never Left Home: Poet, Feminist, Revolutionary
from Duke University Press
In 1969, poet and revolutionary Margaret Randall was forced underground when the Mexican government cracked down on all those who took part in the 1968 student movement. Needing to leave the country, she sent her four young children alone to Cuba while she scrambled to find safe passage out of Mexico. In I Never Left Home, Randall recounts her harrowing escape and the other extraordinary stories from her life and career.
From living among New York's abstract expressionists in the mid-1950s as a young woman to working in the Nicaraguan Ministry of Culture to instill revolutionary values in the media during the Sandinista movement, the story of Randall's life reads like a Hollywood production. Along the way, she edited a bilingual literary journal in Mexico City, befriended Cuban revolutionaries, raised a family, came out as a lesbian, taught college, and wrote over 150 books. Throughout it all, Randall never wavered from her devotion to social justice.
When she returned to the United States in 1984 after living in Latin America for twenty-three years, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service ordered her to be deported for her "subversive writing." Over the next five years, and with the support of writers, entertainers, and ordinary people across the country, Randall fought to regain her citizenship, which she won in court in 1989.
As much as I Never Left Home is Randall's story, it is also the story of the communities of artists, writers, and radicals she belonged to. Randall brings to life scores of creative and courageous people on the front lines of creating a more just world. She also weaves political and social analyses and poetry into the narrative of her life. Moving, captivating, and astonishing, I Never Left Home is a remarkable story of a remarkable woman.
Praise for the work of Margaret Randall
"A revolutionary woman and remarkable writer places her long journey within the context of her conflicted past and our own divided present. . . . A striking remembrance by an intellectual whose radical, fierce nature is unflappable." — Kirkus Reviews
"Every Margaret Randall book or poem is a jewel to be savored, but this text may be the best yet. Beautifully written, it is Randall's first comprehensive memoir. With her moves through the 1950s' expressionist art world in New York through the 1960s Mexican literary scene, the Cuban Revolution looms large and beckons Randall to participate, which eventually brings the scrutiny of Uncle Sam attempting to strip her of her citizenship. Throughout, Randall's early and deep feminism is a guiding light." — Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States
“Margaret Randall hails from a heroic era when poets aspired to change life. Nominally a memoir, I Never Left Home is really a full-blown autobiography, chronicling her life as a poet, a woman, a feminist, a mother, a lesbian, an incest survivor, and a participant in a quarter century of Latin American social and political revolution. Her experiences as coeditor of one of the 1960s most important international literary magazines are gripping, but it's her account of the Reagan administration's attempt to deport her from the land of her birth as an undesirable alien that makes I Never Left Home so necessary in the present moment. Few U.S. poets have dared to dream as big, fight as hard, or accomplish as much.” — Garrett Caples, coeditor of The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia
“Margaret Randall's life is the story of our twentieth century, with all of its lucid wonder, its dark passages and contradictions. Illuminating and enthralling.” — Achy Obejas, author of The Tower of the Antilles
Garrett Caples is the poetry editor at City Lights Books, journalist, and a published poet.