Her Sister’s Tattoo

Two sisters. One badly injured cop. A family torn between loyalty and politics.

Rosa and Esther Cohen march through downtown Detroit in August 1968, protesting the war in Vietnam in harmony with their family’s tradition of activism. The march is peaceful, but when a bloodied teenager describes a battle with mounted police a few blocks away, the young women hurry to offer assistance. Trying to stop the violence, the sisters instead intensify it. An officer is seriously injured; they are arrested and charged with conspiracy and attempted murder. For Rosa, their arrest offers another way to protest an unacceptable war. Esther wants to avoid prison to stay home with her infant daughter Molly. She agrees to accept a plea bargain offer and testify against Rosa at trial. The consequences of these actions lead one sister underground and into prison, the other to leave town to bury her past in a new town, 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, Rosa and Esther’s story is bracketed by the Vietnam and Iraq wars. It explores the thorny intersection of sibling loyalty and political beliefs.


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 the children. Meeropol evokes both the fear and exhilaration of protest.”—Marge Piercy, author of Woman on the Edge of Time

“Her Sister’s Tattoo is a story 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, author of The Child Finder 

Colorful drawing of two girls at the center one with brown hair and a scarf and the other with orange hair and sunglasses with paper origami birds flying around them and yellow script that reads Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol.

Ellen Meeropol ( Author Website )

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Genre/Imprint: Fiction, Red Hen Press

$17.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 978-1-59709-844-1


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