I have written four books of nonfiction. My latest, American Rebels: How the Hancock, Adams, and Quincy Families Fanned the Flames of Revolution, was published in March 2020. Library Journal, in its starred review, wrote: “Sankovitch has woven a compelling, potent chronicle of members of three principal American families that will be valued by readers of American history at all levels.”
“Best-selling author Nina Sankovitch has given us a magnificent, solid work on the life, times and people who helped guide the American colonies to freedom from English rule…. Sankovitch has combined detailed research and reporting and a critically straightforward conversational writing style that puts her readers in the hearts and minds of participants and, more important, offers us fresh perspective of the events leading to revolution here,” wrote Jack Shea of The Martha’s Vineyard Times.
Publishers Weekly also praised American Rebels: “Historian Sankovitch (The Lowells of Massachusetts) explores the family connections and revolutionary politics shared by John Hancock, John and Abigail Adams, and Josiah Quincy Jr., in this richly detailed and fluidly written account…Sankovitch leavens her deeply researched account with wit, and presents a persuasive and entertaining portrait of life in colonial Boston. Revolutionary War buffs will savor this thoughtful addition to popular histories of the period.”
Booklist recommended American Rebels: “Sankovitch lays out the evolution of eighteenth-century political thought and shows how it arose within these families and their interconnections. Students of American Revolution history will find a fresh perspective here.”
Goodreads named American Rebels one of “the most highly anticipated new and upcoming nonfiction… books readers can’t wait to crack open…”
James Comey, former FBI director and author of A Higher Loyalty wrote, “American Rebels is a fascinating and richly detailed story of three New England families who emerged from their small world to change ours forever.”
In American Rebels, I follow the intertwined lives of John Hancock, John Adams, Josiah Quincy Junior, Abigail Smith Adams, and Dorothy Quincy Hancock, all of whom spent their childhoods in Braintree, Massachusetts. How it that such prominent leaders of the American revolution all came from a tiny village? But in researching my book, this wasn’t the only question I wanted answers to. I also wanted to know:
· What was it that led certain members of colonial families to remain loyal while others chose to fight for independence?
· How did the colonists have the courage to break with England, a country known for its awesome naval powers and military commanders?
· How did the choice cut across class lines, and across gender lines?
· What role did individual voices, male and female, play in community- wide debates over colonial rights, and in cementing collaborative efforts towards fighting for them?
Through years of research, I found answers to all my questions and in American Rebels I tell the stories of these fascinating, complex, inspiring — and, for many of them, largely forgotten — rebels who changed the world for all of us.
The first “history” I wrote was a memoir. In 2011, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading, was published by HarperCollins. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair tells the story of how reading a book a day for one year helped me continue on in the world after my oldest sister died of cancer, and also relates the history of my family: my immigrant parents with their three girls, struggling and thriving in the Midwest after enduring tragedy and hardship during World War II.
Tolstoy and the Purple Chair was hailed as “an outstanding debut” by Kirkus Reviews and designated a “book to read now” by Oprah. It was widely hailed as an ode to the joys and comforts of reading, including by The Christian Science Monitor, The Los Angeles Times, Bookpage, Publishers’s Weekly, and Booklist.
My second book, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing (published by Simon & Schuster), is a combination of history and memoir, written. In Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I explore the history of letter-writing through the lens of a discovery I made when my family moved into a century-old house in New York. In an old shed in the backyard of our decrepit home (it needed renovation of the roof, the plumbing, the electricity, the windows, etc), I found a large steamer trunk, rotting at the seams, which contained a treasure trove of old letters. The letters had been saved over a period of sixty years by a woman named Addie Seligman. Taking pride of place were the hundreds of letters written by her son while he was away at Princeton from 1908–1912. With my oldest son leaving for college, I wondered if he would ever write to me — and I set off on a quest to understand the history of letter writing, and to define the qualities of letters that make them so special.
Oprah hailed Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing, as a book “every joy-seeking woman needs to read” and my second book also received celebratory reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Review, Library Journal, and Booklist.
Long fascinated by the poets Amy Lowell, James Russell Lowell, and Robert Lowell, I searched for Lowell family letters while researching Signed, Sealed, Delivered and was horrified to discover that the family had a tradition of burning correspondence posthumously. But with diligence and determination, I was able to discover troves of Lowell family letters scattered throughout archives and collections, and I decided to write a multi-generational history of this fascinating family.
The Lowells of Massachusetts: An American Family, my third book, tells the story of the Lowell family, from Percival Lowle’s arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1639 through the blazing of Amy Lowell’s poetic glory in the early twentieth century.
Critics hailed The Lowells of Massachusetts as “[A] stirring saga …Vivid and intimate, Ms. Sankovitch’s account entertains us with Puritans and preachers, Tories and rebels, abolitionists and industrialists, lecturers and poets … Ms. Sankovitch has made a compelling contribution to Massachusetts and American History.” ( The Wall Street Journal)
“Meet American’s Most Extraordinary Family: the Lowells of Massachusetts,” said The Washington Post: “Sankovitch has searched out these letters to write the powerful story of one of America’s most extraordinary families, a family that helped shape the course of American history in dramatic and decisive ways…By the final pages of this volume, one feels deeply attached to the individual Lowells, while also exhilarated at having experienced this grand sweep of American history.“
“[Sankovitch’s] skillful blending of context and detail makes the vicissitudes of one family emblematic of a nation’s,” proclaimed The New Yorker.
The Connecticut Post called it, “an astonishingly compact 328 pages (considering how much family history it covers) and reads like a fine novel. You might be reminded of one of those deep digs into history and storytelling that James Michener used to do in his novels “Hawaii” and “Chesapeake.”
“A fascinating collective biography … paying tribute to both worthy individuals and everyone else in this prominent, complicated family,” said Booklist.
The Library Journal also recommended The Lowells of Massachusetts: “Sankovitch’s use of interpretative passages breathe color into descriptions of home life of various Lowells, adding an artistic dimension to the account. Her ability to switch the focus among the family members while keeping readers fully engaged in the narrative is a significant achievement.”
“A sturdy, busy multibiography of an eminent American family… Exhaustive work by a clear admirer and dogged researcher,” said Kirkus Reviews.