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Her Sister's Tattoo

In August 1968, Rosa and Esther Cohen march through downtown Detroit protesting the war in Vietnam. The march is peaceful, but when a bloodied teenager describes a battle with mounted police a few blocks away, the sisters hurry to offer assistance. Trying to stop the violence, they instead intensify it. An officer is seriously injured. Rosa and Esther are arrested and charged with conspiracy and attempted murder.

 

For Rosa, their arrest offers an opportunity to make a political statement, another way to protest an unacceptable war. Esther wants to avoid prison and stay home with her infant daughter, Molly; the only way to do that is to accept a plea bargain and testify against Rosa at trial. The consequences of these actions lead one sister underground and to prison, the other to leave town to bury her past in a new life. Molly grows up unaware of her family history until she meets Rosa's daughter, her cousin Emma, at summer camp.

 

Told from multiple points of view and through the sisters' never-mailed letters, and bracketed by the Vietnam and Iraq wars, HER SISTER'S TATTOO explores the thorny intersection of sibling loyalty and clashing political decisions.

 

"The elegant restraint of Ellen Meeropol's prose and the painstaking precision of her vision offer us discerning glimpses over decades and generations into the complexities of political engagement—its big questions and especially its intimacies. At a time when radical movements are on the rise, we find in Her Sister's Tattooexactly what we now need: both caution and hope." — Angela Davis

 

"Her Sister's Tattoo is a story of not just of two sisters but of our country, where politics have so often torn apart families, loved ones, and communities. This tenderly told novel brings humanity to all sides of struggle, lifting us with its grace, compassion, and hope for the future. I highly recommend." — Rene Denfeld

 

"Her Sister's Tattoo is an honest and riveting portrait of anti-war activists and the price individuals and families pay for their actions, no matter how just. It is also a portrait of how lies and secrets can eat away again at both individuals and everyone in their families, particularly children. Meeropol evokes both the fear and exhilaration of protest." — Marge Piercy

 

"Rarely has the political been more heartrendingly personal than it is in Her Sister's Tattoo. Within the story of these incandescent sisters, Meeropol contains a lifetime's worth of devastating choices and the remorse that inescapably follows.

At a time when politics are again threatening to rip the American family apart, this might just be the novel we need." — Andrew Foster Altschul

 

"A sensitive exploration of the excruciating dilemmas of seeking to end horrendous crimes while keeping to the principle 'First, do no harm.'" — Noam Chomsky