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Friday Night Dialogues: One life shaped by the past

Friday Night Dialogues will feature author Peter Rupert Lighte on September 4.
Friday Night Dialogues will feature author Peter Rupert Lighte on September 4.


Peter Rupert Lighte will discuss his newest book, “Host of Memories: Tales of Inevitable Happenstance,” at the Shelter Island Library’s Friday Night Dialogues on September 4 at 7 p.m.

Mr. Lighte, a longtime sinophile and J.P. Morgan Chase banker, is convinced we all share a world alive with rhythm and complexity. His collection of personal stories reveals just how powerfully one man’s present has been shaped by the richness of his past. He brings disparate elements of his life together in lively, evocative autobiographical essays.

Mr. 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 — “As a hospitable host in this room, I will give a guided tour of its interior.”

He grew up in Florida but, after his parents’ divorce, moved with his mother to New York City. It was a family of feuds and sudden deaths, and his mother suffered periodic depressions. By contrast, he was a clownish child who told off-color jokes and played the recorder with his nose.

He was an aimless student until he took a college elective on the Far East, hoping for an education on the Vietnam War. This determined much of his future: Studying Chinese in Taiwan, teaching English in Tokyo, working in Beijing, connecting with his husband over “A Night at the Chinese Opera” and adopting two Chinese daughters.

“‘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,” commented Anne-Marie Slaughter, professor emerita at Princeton University and former director of policy planning for the U.S. Department of State.

Alison Klayman, director of Ai Weiwei, wrote, “I couldn’t put down Peter Rupert 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.”

Join us at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 4 at the library to share in the lively life of this gracious man. Admission is free with donations gladly accepted.

The description of Mr. Lighte’s book is excerpted in part from a Kirkus review published in April of this year.

Coming Up: “The Fireboats of 9/11,” a film and discussion with Judith Hole and Fireboat  Fire Fighter Museum President Charlie Ritchie on September 11.