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Host of Memories: Tales of Inevitable Happenstance

Neither the “bamboo curtain” nor sexual confusion could keep Peter Rupert Lighte from his appointed rounds. He was determined to become a sinologist before President Nixon called in on Chairman Mao and to be a father when gay still meant festive. In his latest book, Host of Memories: Tales of Inevitable Happenstance, he crafts a collection of personal anecdotes into a loving and quirky history. In luscious descriptions, he portrays the drama and security of his Jewish New York upbringing melting into his struggle, as a quizzical young man, to hone his ideas on life while traversing the continents, discovering his sexuality, and ultimately finding himself in anything but a tidy fashion. As founding chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase Bank China, he navigates between Europe and Asia and finally makes his way back to Princeton, where he had previously studied. Along the Way, he found his future husband, went on to adopt two daughters from China and created a Jewish family of his own. As these stories demonstrate, Peter’s present has been powerfully shaped by the richness of his past.

Kirkus Review

“Focusing Proust-like on the objects that embody memories, Lighte hosts a tour of his life, from an American Jewish upbringing to a career in China and London. He exploits both meanings of the title by taking on the role of solicitous tour guide. [These are] lively, evocative autobiographical essays.”


“I couldn’t put down Peter Lighte’s Host of Memories until I had finished it. Every chapter is filled with a rich assortment of characters that he has met, loved, and learned from during an adventurous life. I hope he continues this project of recording memories in his elegant prose for us to read more.”

-—Alison Klayman

Director, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry


“This memoir deftly covers a remarkable range of changes in American society over the twentieth century through rites of passage—adolescence, divorce, death, and sexual awakening—as played out in family and academia. . . . Throughout, the hurly-burly of the author’s personal existence reflects the dramatic cultural transformations surrounding him.” 

—William B. Russel, Dean Emeritus of the Graduate School,
Princeton University


“A little boy is so uncomfortable at a family dinner that he pushes his shoe into the center of the elegantly set table. Decades later, he gathers the relatives together to his own table, his own telling of their stories. Here the host of memories travels back and forth in time. With a keen sense of humor and detail, he makes us enjoy Aunt Marcy, a Hindu festival opening a textile factory in North Carolina, and a quirky Princeton doyenne, with all the sillinesses, misjudgments, and vulnerabilities of being alive.” 

—Miriam Peskowitz, New York Times bestselling author of
The Daring Book for Girls


Host of Memories is an utterly charming book, weaving together kosher rituals in New York City, nights at the opera, draft dodging, quirky professors, sexual awakening, and China in the first years after its opening. The vignettes—perfect bedtime reading—resonate with universal themes, above all the love, strength, and eccentricity of an extended Jewish family.” 

—Anne-Marie Slaughter, President/CEO of the New America
Foundation, Professor Emerita at Princeton University, former Director of Policy Planning for the US Department of State

Debut Reading for Host of Memories

Peter’s hometown of Princeton, New Jersey was the host of a debut reading from Host of Memories: Tales of Inevitable Happenstance.  Author Peter Lighte, shared tales from his forthcoming memoir as part of a fundraiser for Half the Sky Foundation.