I Never Left Home

Poet, Feminist, Revolutionary

I Never Left Home

Margaret Randall discusses her memoir in a YouTube video.
Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 30 illustrations Published: March 2020

Activism, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Latin American Studies

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.


“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

“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'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

"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

"Through storytelling, reflection and justifications for her life choices, hers is an exhilarating and bumpy ride through some interesting times and places and the cultures and politics she encountered, in which she attempts to capture her original impressions as well as expanding on her current views. . . . For anyone with a radical feminist perspective of society, there will be much to agree with in this memoir. For others, it is a complex reappraisal of fascinating times and places that shaped one woman’s thinking." — Sue Turner, The Morning Star

"In these times, we need to cultivate visions of the future that break in radical, unexpected ways from the present moment. Margaret Randall’s example offers many possible entry points for dialogue on what is required of younger people today to make the level of deep, transformative change to which Margaret and her contemporaries aspired. . . ." — Karín Aguilar-San Juan, The Mac Weekly

"Her writings are tree branches that bloom with every word. Regardless of seasons, time and circumstances Randall’s words are today’s leaves that oxygenate breathless discoveries with every moment. In the hands of whomever beholds Margaret Randall’s lived testimony, the will of strength, courage and inspiration she brings forward is felt. In a sense, Randall’s memoir transmits similar sentiments to that of Che Guevara’s personal travel dairy with keen observations and a concern for the well-being of all humanity." — Jimmy Centeno, Sounds and Colours

"A passionate account of the perspectives of the radical generation of the 1960s as experienced by the extraordinary Margaret Randall." — Dan Georgakas, Against the Current


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Margaret Randall is a poet, essayist, oral historian, translator, memoirist, and photographer who has published over 150 books of poetry and prose, including Exporting Revolution: Cuba's Global Solidarity; Haydée Santamaría, Cuban Revolutionary: She Led by Transgression; and Che on My Mind, all also published by Duke University Press. Randall was awarded the Poet of Two Hemispheres Prize by Poesía en Paralelo Cero in Quito, Ecuador, and Cuba's Haydée Santamaría medal, and the University of New Mexico gave her an honorary doctorate of letters, all in 2019. She is also the 2020 recipient of the AWP George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature. In addition to giving seminars and workshops throughout the United States and Latin America, Randall has taught at the University of New Mexico, Macalester College, the University of Delaware, and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Randall lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Table of Contents Back to Top
1. How This Book Came to Be  1
2. Where It All Started: Before My Birth and the Early Years, 1936–1947  5
3. The Landscape of Desire: High School and Beyond, 1947–1958  41
4. The Picture Plane: New York, 1958–1961  72
5. Where Stones Weep: Mexico, 1961–1969  114
6. Interlude: Escape  168
7. First Free Territory: Cuba, 1969–1980  181
8. Volcano: Nicaragua, 1980–1984  217
9. Home: 1984 and Beyond  247
Published Books  297
Notes  305
Index  315
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Margaret Randall is the recipient of the 2020 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature, presented by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP).

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