Nebraska Center for Writers

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About Ladette Randolph


The Big Empty:
Contemporary Nebraska Nonfiction Writers
Copyright © 2007
by Ladette Randolph & Nina Shevchuk-Murray
U of Nebraska P

A vast, barren landscape or a place of subtle natural beauty; the middle of nowhere or the gateway to the cultural and historical riches of the West; many things to many people and a cipher to many more — the great state of Nebraska is by force of circumstances a place of possibilities. What these possibilities are and what they promise are precisely what the writers of The Big Empty tell us.
Exploring the state from its rural reaches to its urban engines, from its marvelous ecosystems to its myriad historical and cultural offerings, these narratives evoke Nebraska in all its facets. Writers as diverse as Ron Hansen, Ted Kooser, Michael Anania, Bob Kerrey, Mary Pipher, Delphine Red Shirt, and William Kloefkorn, among many others, bring a wealth of perspectives and styles to topics such as the Oregon Trail and the Cheyenne Exodus, farming and Internet cafés, politics, weather, and family secrets. The result is a portrait whose broad strokes and rich detail capture the mysterious character of Nebraska.
Contributors: Michael Anania, Ron Block, Alan Boye, Bob Gibson, Merrill Gilfillan, Ron Hansen, John Janovy Jr, Paul Johnsgard, Bryan Jones, Bob Kerrey, William Kloefkorn, Lisa Knopp, Ted Kooser, Kenneth Lincoln, Kem Luther, Mark Monroe, Mary Pipher, John Price, Delphine Red Shirt, Michael Rips, Bob Ross, Joe Starita, Ruth Thone, Jack Todd, Robert Vivian, Eamonn Wall, and Roger Welsch. — from the publisher

A Different Plain:
Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers
Copyright © 2004
by Ladette Randolph
U of Nebraska P

O Pioneers! was oh so long ago, and yet Willa Cather's masterpiece has proven to be an enduring template for readers' notions of Nebraska writing. The short stories collected here, so richly various in style, theme, and subject matter, should put an end to any such plain thinking about writing from this anything-but-plain state. Nebraska writers all, the authors explore the Midwest, a vastness of small towns, corn, cattle, football, and family businesses. They also venture far afield, to desolate western lives, crowded urban relationships, poignant couplings, comic families, and the worldly idiosyncrasies of characters everywhere. Whether about aging or coming-of-age, leave-taking or coming home, falling apart or finding love, these stories represent contemporary fiction at its best, from the high style of Richard Dooling's "Immortal Man" to Kent Haruf's soft-spoken "Dancing," from Ron Hansen's "My Communist" to Jonis Agee's earthy, offbeat "Binding the Devil." Original, spirited, and surprising, these contemporary writings depict a modern world on the move and extend the tradition of great fiction from Nebraska into the twenty-first century. — from the publisher

In this fine new anthology, Ladette Randolph ... an accomplished short story writer herself, assembles a strong collection of stories all bound together by that familiar place on the national map that we call Nebraska. ... There are some real gems in this book. . . . Taken in its entirety, A Different Plain reminds readers that there is a whole other American literature that is often overlooked by those on either coast. — Bloomsbury Review

Haven's Wake
Copyright © 2012
by Ladette Randolph
U of Nebraska P

Early July, and the corn in eastern Nebraska stands ten feet tall; after a near-decade of drought, it seems too good to be true, and everyone is watching the sky for trouble. For the Grebels, whose plots of organic crops trace a modest patchwork among the vast fields of soybeans and corn, trouble arrives from a different quarter in the form of Elsa’s voice on her estranged son’s answering machine: “Your father’s dead. You’ll probably want to come home.”
When a tractor accident fells the patriarch of this Mennonite family, the threads holding them together are suddenly drawn taut, singing with the tensions of a lifetime’s worth of love and faith, betrayal and shame. Through the competing voices of those gathered for Haven Grebel’s funeral, acts of loyalty and failures, long-suppressed resentments and a tragic secret are brought to light, expressing a larger, complex truth. — from the publisher

[Haven's Wake is] lyrically written and a wonderful read. — Ellen Meeropol,

Haven’s Wake is about memory and silence, and about secrets and the fear of them. But above all, it’s a tale of love and loyalty. At the very heart of this deeply heartfelt novel is the story of the restorative power of family and tradition. — Timothy Schaffert, author of The Coffins of Little Hope

Ladette Randolph traces that finest of lines between what counts as betrayal and what counts as fidelity in a family, what counts as love and what counts as duty over the generations, what counts as desire and what counts as necessity in a home. Haven’s Wake is a moving reckoning of disappointments and glories. — William Lychack, author of The Architect of Flowers

A song of a story — uplifting, tender, heart-shattering. Ladette Randolph is a master. These characters are so real to me I feel I could drive to Nebraska and find them, easily. — Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red

A Sandhills Ballad
Copyright © 2009
by Ladette Randolph
U of New Mexico P

After her life as she knows it is ended by heartbreak, Mary Rasmussen, a strong-willed and independent young ranch woman living in the Sandhills of western Nebraska, suddenly feels that all she has believed in — God, her instincts, the land itself — has failed her, and she abandons her cultural and emotional ties, succumbing to circumstances she thinks she is powerless to control. In a rash decision, she marries a conservative, patriarchal preacher who doesn't understand Mary, the ranching community, or anything beyond his own beliefs. — from the publisher
This is good, old-fashioned storytelling at its best, and Mary Rasmussen will live forever in your hearts as a young woman who faces enormous tests and survives in order to protect those she loves. Stubborn, determined, and loyal, Mary makes a life that requires both imagination and grit and you end up rooting for her every inch of the way.
Randolph is revisioning the American plains in this novel, telling the stories of the women who struggle side-by-side with men on their Sandhills ranches and in their small towns. These are people of great courage and even greater integrity, who love and lose and love again, as undaunted as their pioneer forebears in their efforts to make a life for themselves and future generations. ... — from the publisher

Randolph writes truthfully of the Nebraska Sandhills, a harsh land that exacts a brutal price for those who choose to love it. Having lived there, one never truly leaves, as Mary Rasmussen discovers, it etches its beautiful scar on body and soul. — Jonis Agee, author of The River Wife

With penetrating insight and solid authority on the rural West, Ladette Randolph has carved out a compelling saga of a young woman ripening into maturity. You cannot help but cheer for Mary Rasmussen. Randolph's work is tough, tender, and brave, a pitch-perfect take on the hard beauty of life on the Nebraska prairie. — Pam Joern, author of The Floor of the Sky and The Plain Sense of Things

A Sandhills Ballad is a poignantly written, lovely novel of the heartland that honors the best traditions of storytelling. — Jim Harrison, author of The English Major and Legends of the Fall

I began reading A Sandhills Ballad in the afternoon and found myself, at three in the morning, finishing the last page. Mary's story is at once sad and brave, tender and compelling. Ladette Randolph knows well the rhythms and variations of life in Nebraska's Sandhills, where men and women face loss without complaint and celebrate their days with a love of family and land and community that runs like a quiet stream beneath the seamless prose of this novel. — Mary Clearman Blew, author of Jackalope Dreams and winner of many awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association

An immersing achievement, this novel should please any fan of good fiction, not just the horses-and-heartthrobs set. — Publisher's Weekly

It strikes me that A Sandhills Ballad is a nearly perfect book. The harsh Nebraska landscape is a complete character in its own right. Unforgiving. Somewhat distant. Aloof. Home. The human characters are more yielding, but only just. And the sum of what author Ladette Randolph creates here is unforgettable. &151; Monica Stark, January Magazine

This Is Not the Tropics
Copyright © 2005
by Ladette Randolph
U of Wisconsin P

The stories collected in This Is Not the Tropics come from the geographic center of a divided nation, and its protagonists evoke a split personality — one half submerged in America's own diehard mythology, the other half searching to escape tradition. Together they form a portrait of the Plains that is both quirky and poignant. While the themes in this collection are familiar — love and betrayal, loneliness and regret, the needs of the individual versus the needs of the community — the stories themselves are startling and new. Whether it is the story of an eccentric, out-of-work accordion player; a woman ending a long marriage against the backdrop of a visit from her failing mother; a young girl who wishes to solve a mystery until real mystery enters her life; two sisters who watch as their mother battles an entire town, including their father; a man who comes to be suspicious of his new girlfriend's stalker story; or all of the men in a small Nebraska town who annually compete in a hilariously earnest beauty pageant, these are tales that speak of the lives lived in the small towns, the prairie cities, and on the dirt roads off blue highways in the middle of nowhere and everywhere. — from the publisher

Ladette Randolph's stories have the sly, subtle intensity of a snake gliding through grass. They sneak up on their characters and the reader alike, invoking humor, grace, and wisdom before pouncing on us with exhilarating epiphanies that are as dark and brutal as they are hopeful. — Meghan Daum

An accomplished, engaging debut collection that displays an impressive range. These are wise, heartfelt, and graceful stories. — Marly Swick

Ladette Randolph's stories sink their teeth into the deep Nebraska Midwest the way that Flannery O'Connor tore into the heart of Georgia. There's a wonderfully sly, deadpan sweetness at work here, so that it may take a moment to realize how odd and twisty the stories are. Randolph seems like such a nice, earnestly polite young woman — and then suddenly your wallet is missing and she's driving away in your car! These are beautifully crafty, beguiling stories: witty, wise, and wicked. — Dan Chaon

These are stories of compassion and surprising generosity, as characters who have been trapped find escape, who have been lonely find company, and who have endured loss face not sorrow, but transformation. — Erin McGraw

An utterly remarkable debut collection ... offers up a clear-eyed portrait of the Plains, marked by heartache, fear, loneliness and regret ... Quite honestly, this is the finest collection I've seen in years. — Publishers Weekly

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