An Untold Chapter in the Kennedy Saga · Based on first-ever access to P.J. Kennedy’s private papers
Sacrifice and Survival, Resistance and Reinvention · Square Books is pleased to present author Neal Thompson in conversation with Ace Atkins in celebration of Thompson's latest nonfiction marvel, The First Kennedys: The Humble Roots of An American Dynasty at Off Square Books on Wednesday, March 23rd at 6 pm.
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Based on genealogical breakthroughs and previously unreleased records, this is the first book to explore the inspiring story of the poor Irish refugee couple who escaped famine, created a life together in a city hostile to Irish, immigrants, and Catholics, and launched the Kennedy dynasty in America.
Their Irish ancestry was a hallmark of the Kennedys’ initial political profile, as JFK leveraged his working-class roots to connect with blue-collar voters. Today, we remember this iconic American family as the vanguard of wealth, power, and style rather than as the descendants of poor immigrants. Here at last, we meet the first American Kennedys, Patrick and Bridget, who arrived as many thousands of others did following the Great Famine—penniless and hungry. Less than a decade after their marriage in Boston, Patrick’s sudden death left Bridget to raise their children single-handedly. Her rise from housemaid to shop owner in the face of rampant poverty and discrimination kept her family intact, allowing her only son P.J. to become a successful saloon owner and businessman. P.J. went on to become the first American Kennedy elected to public office—the first of many.
About the Author
Neal Thompson is a journalist and the author of five highly acclaimed books, including A Curious Man, Driving with the Devil, and the fatherhood-and-skateboarding memoir Kickflip Boys. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Esquire, Outside, Oprah.com, and more and has taught creative nonfiction at Hugo House and the Great Smokies Writing Program. He lives in Seattle with his family.
About the Host
Ace Atkins is the author of twenty-eight books, including eleven Quinn Colson novels, the first two of which, The Ranger and The Lost Ones, were nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (he has a third Edgar nomination for his short story "Last Fair Deal Gone Down"). He is the author of nine New York Times-bestselling novels in the continuation of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series. Before turning to fiction, he was a correspondent for the St. Petersburg Times and a crime reporter for the Tampa Tribune, and he played defensive end for Auburn University football.
"An engrossing, real-life rags-to-riches tale."—Publishers Weekly
“Here is that rare thing: an untold chapter in the Kennedy saga. Neal Thompson has given us a compelling and illuminating book about one of the most important families in our history—a family that represents so much about America then. And now.” —Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize winner and #1 New York Times best-selling author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
“Here is the chaos, claustrophobia, tragedy, and triumph of immigrant America told through one city and one iconic family. Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Kennedys, along comes Neal Thompson with this brilliant re-creation of the Irish diaspora succeeding in a city that for many years would not allow them to be part of the American story. It’s great storytelling.” —Timothy Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times best-selling author of The Immortal Irishman
“To understand the unforgettable stories of Jack and Bobby, Eunice, Ted, and the rest of their celebrated generation of Kennedys, we have to understand the stories of their extraordinary great-grandparents and grandparents. Now, thanks to Neal Thompson, we can. Read all about it in The First Kennedys.” —Larry Tye, author of Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon
“A fresh, engrossing, and profoundly relatable look at a family that everyone thinks they know. Crafting a saga elevated by dogged research and transporting prose, Neal Thompson casts the humble beginnings of an American dynasty into surprising and penetrating light. Unforgettable.” —Denise Kiernan, New York Times best-selling author of The Last Castle and The Girls of Atomic City
“Here is that rare thing: an untold chapter in the Kennedy saga. . .Compelling and illuminating.”—Jon Meacham