HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Rosemary Sullivan

Internationally Recognized Author


  • Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva.
  • The Bones Beneath Biography: What the Reader Doesn’t Get to Read
  • The Varied Lives of Women Writers: From Margaret Atwood to Svetlana Alliluyeva
  • Creative Writing Programs and Their Impact
  • Villa Air-Bel: World War II. Escape and a House in Marseille; How Artists in France Escaped the Nazis with the Aid of the American Emergency Rescue Committee
  • The Writing Life: What It Means to Be an Author



Video: PBS NewsHour:The extraordinary life of Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva.

Rosemary Sullivan, internationally recognized author, has written poetry, short fiction, biography, literary criticism, reviews, and articles. Her recent books include the critically acclaimed Villa Air-Bel, Labyrinth of Desire, and Stalin’s Daughter.

In her most recent book, Stalin’s Daughter: the Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva (Harper), which has sold in nineteen countries, Sullivan shares a deeply researched work of narrative nonfiction that combines popular history and biography to tell the incredible story of Svetlana Stalin, a woman fated to live her life in the shadow of one of history’s most monstrous dictators—her father, Josef. With access to KGB, CIA, and Soviet government archives, as well as the close cooperation of Svetlana’s daughter, Sullivan pieces together Svetlana’s incredible life in a masterful account of unprecedented intimacy. Epic in scope, it’s a revolutionary biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father’s name. Sullivan explores a complicated character in her broader context without ever losing sight of her powerfully human story, in the process opening a closed, brutal world that continues to fascinate us.

Sullivan has been praised across the world for her work and achievements in writing. She has received the following awards for her work: Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction, Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the Canadian Author’s Association Literary Award for Non-Fiction, the University of British Columbia’s Medal for Canadian Biography, the Lorne Pierce Medal, National Magazine Awards silver medal, and a Western Journalism Awards first prize for travelogue. As well, in 2012 Sullivan was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian award, for her contributions to literature and culture. She has fellowships from Guggenheim, Killam, Camargo, Jackman Humanities Institute, and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

She has lectured across Canada, the United States, Europe, India, Puerto Rico, Chile, and Mexico. Currently she is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto where she held a Canada Research Chair in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction, and was the founding director of the MA Program in English in the Field of Creative Writing.

Praise for Stalin’s Daughter:

“Riveting…. Sullivan is an eminent biographer…[and her] work rings a decidedly intimate note, for her focus is not on Stalin himself but on the shadow he cast upon the private life of one woman; yet it is precisely this narrow focus that lends the book its fascination. At times one feels as if one is looking at the back side of history…. Throughout, Sullivan treats the wealth of facts she has uncovered with a sensitive, compassionate touch…. Sullivan tells a nuanced story that...allows readers the freedom of their own interpretations. The complex and tragic figure that emerges offers an extraordinary glimpse into one of the grimmest chapters of the past century.”
--Olga Grushin, New York Times Book Review

“Stalin’s Daughter is filled to the rafters with…first-hand accounts, taken from hoards of letters, interviews, articles and previously unseen papers, of Svetlana’s life, times and personality, giving the book the feel of a well-made documentary…. her life, as Sullivan shows….was lived as a series of endlessly repeated, suffocating cycles…. It takes a fine biographer to catch a woman as parti-coloured as this, and Sullivan has produced a delicate, balanced and unforgettably good portrait of a courageous and magnificent woman.”
--Frances Wilson, The London Daily Telegraph

“Was Stalin a monster? Oh, yes. The question that threads through this lively intelligent book is a more interesting one, though: can you live with the idea that you are the daughter of a monster? . [Svetlana] proves, in her strange life between Russia, Georgia, India, the United States and Britain, that you really can survive as the child of an abhorred tyrant—but you spend a great deal of time running away from yourself.”
--Roger Boyes: The Times (London)

“[An] extraordinary book…. Rosemary Sullivan possesses the sensitivity necessary to unlock a beguiling and complex character worthy of admiration, not ridicule…. Superb.”
--Washington Post

“Compelling…. Sullivan takes us confidently through an eventful life….It’s to Ms. Sullivan’s credit that, at least in these pages, Alliluyeva herself is proved…a fascinating person not simply because of her name.”
--Wall Street Journal

“A principal virtue of…Sullivan’s empathetic Stalin’s Daughter is the vivid sense it offers of Alliluyeva…. Sullivan does a nice job of conveying her subject’s point of view without accepting it as the last word.”
--Los Angeles Times

Stalin’s Daughter is a poignant look at the struggles of a dictator’s offspring.”
--Christian Science Monitor

“[A] magisterial biography.”
--O Magazine

“In her poignant biography, Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan tells Alliluyeva’s story with sympathy and sharp psychological insight.…Stalin’s Daughter soars on details culled from dozens of interviews and impressive archival research from KGB and CIA files. The glimpses into the Stalin household are invariably fascinating, and the subsequent wanderings of Svetlana as she searches for inner peace take on an epic quality. It is to Sullivan’s credit that she makes the Homeric wanderings of Svetlana Alliluyeva—who died, almost penniless, in 2011—not only comprehensible, but also unforgettably moving.”

“A detailed, sensitive and…sympathetic account of Alliluyeva’s turbulent and tragic life.”
--San Francisco Chronicle

“Sullivan draws on previously secret documents and interviews with Svetlana’s American daughter, her friends, and the CIA “handler” who escorted her to the U.S. for riveting accounts of her complicated life.”
--Booklist (starred review)

“A biography of haunting fascination portrays its subject as a pawn of historical circumstance who tried valiantly to create her own life. Canadian biographer Sullivan’s previous works often took her into the complicated lives of women artists, and in this sympathetic biography of Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva (1926-2011), the author has illuminated another challenging, mercurial subject.… With great compassion, Sullivan reveals how both sides played her for their own purposes, yet she was a writer first and foremost, a passionate Russian soul who wanted a human connection yet could not quite find the way into the Western heart. The author manages suspense and intrigue at every turn.”
--Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Stalin’s only daughter, lived an almost impossible life at the edges of 20th-century history…. Sullivan masterfully employs interviews, Alliluyeva’s own letters, and the contents of CIA, KGB, and Soviet archives to stitch together a coherent narrative of her fractured life… A head-spinning journey as Alliluyeva attempts to escape her father’s shadow without ever fully comprehending the man who cast it.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Insightful and thoroughly researched.… This excellent and engrossing biography is suitable for anyone interested in Russian history or in Svetlana’s struggle to make a difference in a world that never could separate her from her.”
--Library Journal

‘‘A tremendously exciting and stimulating biography… Never have I read a biography that reminded my more of a picaresque novel, with its heroine bouncing like a pinball from one location to another, from one bizarre situation to another… Her life may have been a mess, but this masterful biography shows that it was her mess, and a magnificent mess, too, in its own particular way.’’
--FIVE STARS, Craig Brown Mail on Sunday

‘‘It takes a fine biographer to capture a woman as parti-coloured as this, and Sullivan has produced a delicate, balanced and unforgettably good portrait of a courageous and magnificent woman’’
--FIVE STARS, Daily Telegraph

“Rosemary Sullivan controls her widespread canvas and large cast in exemplary fashion. Svetlana was chaotic, exasperating, difficult to the point of impossible — but never boring. She was one of the few credits that you can attribute to Stalin.’’
--Daily Mail

“An award winning poet and academic, Sullivan has written a biography on an epic scale, with a combination of tragedy and history worthy of a Russian novel. She recreates with clarity and compassion the life of a brave woman who could never escape Stalin's sins.’’

“Reading this extensively researched book it is impossible not to feel for a woman who grew up “the political prisoner of my father’s name”
--Independent on Sunday

Praise for Villa Air-Bel:

“A moving and richly detailed account.”
--Boston Globe

“Villa Air-Bel is a most welcome book, a triumph of the human spirit”
--Philadelphia Inquirer

“With tremendous suspense and emotional pull, Sullivan recounts the little-known story of Varian Fry, the intrepid young American who sheltered [dozens of artists and intellectuals] helping them and hundreds more escape from Vichy France.”

“Sullivan brilliantly interweaves personal histories with terrifying tales about flight over mountains to Spain or Switzerland and by sea to Casablanca or Martinique….At the centre is Varian Fry, the quiet American.”
--Sunday Times (London)

“Rosemary Sullivan’s Villa Air-Bel is a marvellous addition to the surging literature on occupied France. Sullivan writes not as a historian-she has little new material-but as a dramatist.Her scene-by-scene evocation of life at the house reads like an updated Chekhov comedy laced with horror.”
--Financial Times

“This is a magnificent, complex narrative of courage, folly, and complacency...a beautifully narrated book.”

“Gripping...Sullivan captures the tense atmosphere of France as the Germans invaded and the fear and anxiety of the intellectuals, some held in detention camps and some who ignored the danger until it was nearly too late.”

“A moving tale of great sacrifice in tumultuous times.”
--Publishers Weekly

“[Villa Air-Bel] bring[s] to life those committed Americans and Europeans who risked all to help others...A complex tale showing how hope and courage flourish, even in the toxic soil of totalitarianism.”
--Kirkus Reviews