Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary” as Want to Read:
Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary

by
3.55  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  29 reviews
From hardscrabble Milwaukee to dreamy Hawaii, from turbulent Montreal to free-spirited California, Red Star Tattoo is Sonja Larsen's unforgettable memoir of a young life spent on the move. By the age of 16, Sonja joins a cult-like communist organization in Brooklyn--unaware of the dark nature of what awaits her.

A small, skinny 8-year-old girl holding a teddy bear stands by
...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 12th 2016 by Random House Canada
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Red Star Tattoo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Red Star Tattoo

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  148 ratings  ·  29 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary
Krista
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
How is truth defined? I wrote this down. I put a star beside this. I underlined this. I traced the ink lines of my words on the page. When I first went to Brooklyn, I wanted the red star tattoo that some of the old timers like Rena had. Sitting in the classroom I wanted it more than ever. I wanted some proof of where I'd been, proof it all happened. If not the truth, then at least this. Evidence. A testament to my faith, a scar to remember it by.

Red Star Tattoo is an incredible and fascinating
...more
Magdelanye
SL takes what could be described as an unorthodox, harrowing childhood and turns it into an off-Broadway musical. Born into the counterculture, her resilience and inquisitive nature led her to challenge life rather than to just complain about it.
This is an interesting, spirited, insiders take on the revolution that got nipped in the bud.
Which is why I'm bumping a darn good 3,5 star book up to a 4/5
in my system. 4/7
Jeannette
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
A heartbreaking memoir written by my cool af neighbour. Growing up in a commune (think unstable, not idyllic), hitchhiking from Montreal to SF at 8 years of age with some random dude (her dad said something like, wow, look at all the choices you have at your age), molested by her mother's boyfriend and then her best friend murdered. As a young teen, she moves to Crown Heights in Brooklyn to a communist revolutionary group (aka cult) led by the Old Man. After 3 years waiting for the revolution ...more
Alexa
DNF. I read about 100 pages.

*This was sent to me from Penguin Random House Canada.

I picked this book because I thought it could be interesting and I really enjoy memoirs and reading about topics on mental illness and how bazar someone's life can be but I found this dull and boring.



It doesn't help that the author is completely unknown (I looked her up). I don't know who she is or what else would make her interesting other than her unstable and unconventional (and sad) childhood. "I have a lot of
...more
Danya
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
~3.5 stars. It started off a little confusing/disjointed and uneven, but once it settled into the story of the author's teen years spent as a "revolutionary" it found its stride. A fascinating look into a branch of the Communist Party during the '80s, from the point of a view of a young girl who lived it. Sonja Larsen peels back the facade of this organization to reveal its sordid truths, and the story is told in such a way that one can easily see how the author was drawn to the party, and ...more
Mary Anne
Jun 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
A head-shaking story: what type of parent allows their 8 yo child to go hitchhiking across Canada without them? And yet, her parents did. And that was just the start for this autobiography. Her parents joined a commune, then her mother left for the US, became a communist and followed a cult leader. But her mother rose nowhere near as far in the organization as Sonja did, by joining the main office and becoming a lover of The Old Man. She was 16 or so when she went there for Gods sake! And, for ...more
mica
CN - discusses sexual assault, childhood sexual assault, cults, abuse

This book was engaging and easy to read - I found it hard to put down, and ate through it incredibly quickly. Larsen's prose flowed easily, and felt almost conversational at times.

My one issue with the book was that I felt like I could have used a little more depth to it. I'm not entirely sure what I'm asking for here, but despite the heavy subject matter, I did find that I could have used a little more introspection in the
...more
Pixie
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't what I expected from the jacket so I'm glad I gave it a chance. I had expected a memoir based on youthful self-righteousness, which would have been off-putting. This wasn't the case and made me rethink the type of people who join cult movements. The author was yearning for a sense of purpose and belonging, excited about being part of a greater cause and clinging to this cause even as she began to observe the dark truth behind it all. She is a keen observer of her own pyschology ...more
Lucile Barker
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
43. Red Star Tattoo: my Life as a Girl Revolutionary by Sonya Larsen
The author states that to have an interesting memoir you have to have a screwed up family. She most certainly did, parents who were into communes until they divorced. Then she commuted between her parents in California and Montreal until deciding to join a cell of the Communist party that her mother was in. Sonya ends up at the main house in Brooklyn, and soon becomes the leaders mistress. But she isnt the only one, and she
...more
Lester
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Humans..oh humans!!!
We are not born to be revolutionaries, or christians, or racists, or catholics etc. We are RAISED to be those 'things'!! Essentially by a form of brainwashing..raised to be..for the most part..what we will become, by parents or extended family or peers or or or.......
Yep yep yep..
The good part of human life..is that once a human begins to know what is really right or wrong..a choice is made..sometimes over and over..but still choice.
Thank you for the insight and story of part
...more
Kristine
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well paced and fascinating this memoir is a quick glimpse into the life of a former, would-be revolutionary. The trauma Larsen experienced at the hands of what were essentially cult leaders is wrenching to read. I hope the author eventually delves into fiction writing as no doubt her miserable youth has given her unlimited capacity for describing human experience.
Angela Maeverette
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
Quite vague. It seemed to be more about her trying to remember blurry details of her past than a story that would develop characters and plot lines. I was also surprised that it would be shelved under 'social science' as the book is not actually about communism. That was simply the revolution she was waiting for while part of a cult, ultimately seeking security.
Pam
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked it. A memoir of raw openness and depth. Some of the questions the author asked as a child she continues to ask today without the expectation of answers. She is using her experience by serving youth at risk in British Columbia.
George K. Ilsley
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
An excellent surreal memoir. One of the best I've read lately. The tone reaches into the lyrical at times and this expands the narrative into the ineffable. So bizarre in places and yet feels so true. The ending was not quite perfect, but everything else was great. Amazing work.
Bethany
Jan 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great memoir about a young woman who escaped a cult.
Susanne
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
got up part 4 when she is about to leave the community. Electronic version expired.
Courtney Vader
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I usually love these kind of books but this one I found boring and anti-climatic. It was a struggle to get through.
Rena Graham
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I enjoyed the objective insight the writer brought to bear on the continual parade of unstable adults she endured. Without the temperament she had and early survival skills she developed, I doubt her life would have ended up as well as it did. The early reading and writing seems to have played a big role in that ability to pull herself up and over circumstances others could have been swept away by.

I would have liked to know more about the time this was set in and think comparing her situation to
...more
Ann Frost
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
"It goes without saying that you cannot write a family memoir without a fucked up family. . ." Finally one of these authors nails it! Yet another book written by the survivor of a pretty horrendous upbringing. Raised by hippy parents (I use the term "raised" loosely) before being turned loose as a teenager to fend for herself and ending up in a sort of US Communist Party cult in Brooklyn. When the revolution does not happen on the anointed day, the author decides to pack it in and get out. But ...more
Madeleine Kipling
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My book just arrived in the mail and I can't wait to crack it! After reading many of Larsen's insightful and reflective anecdotes/short stories in a few publications, I eagerly bought her first novel. Larsen has a talent most people don't and that is an intimate ability to understand the inner-workings of the people around her. Never judgmental, always curious, her stories invite you to become the protagonist and experience life from a resilient perspective. I'l let you know if it's as good as I ...more
Alexandra-Christina
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. What a fantastic story. I'm around the same ago as the author and my parents were semi-hippies - but this is the hard-core version of growing up with counter-culture parents. Plus the writing is incredibly vivid and moving. I had tears running down my face by the end. I will be recommending this book to my book club because I can think of so many people who would enjoy it. A great reading experience.
Virginia Van
Jan 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Growing up as a child of the counter culture, Sonja Larsen always longed to belong to something bigger than herself. As a teenager this longing led her to join a revolutionary communist group in New York led by a seductive and frightening charismatic leader. A poignant and insightful autobiography write in spare, poetic prose. Author now lives in Vancouver.
Melissa
Jan 12, 2016 rated it it was ok
With so much shuffling back and forth (California, Montreal, New York), I sometimes found it a bit hard to follow where the story was taking place (which, I suppose, mirrors the author's actual experiences). Also had a hard time imagining the time/year. I expected more to happen.
Simpson9820
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well written and an easy read. Provides insights into the selfless being and the power of the cult.
MaryJean
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
super quick read! I really enjoyed it but I wish the author had spent more time on the ending, it felt a little rushed
Meg
Jul 21, 2016 rated it liked it
interesting read. disgusted with the author's parents
Michelle Melski
Jan 06, 2016 rated it liked it
An engrossing and thoughtful memoir.
Kira
Nov 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting light read, containing one persons opinions of cult and what makes people join.
Andrea Dobson
rated it it was amazing
Feb 18, 2016
Athena
rated it really liked it
Mar 04, 2018
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Warning
  • A Danger to Herself and Others
  • Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life
  • Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family
  • Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me: Depression in the First Person
  • Marilou is Everywhere
  • White Tears
  • The Origin of Others
  • See Jane Run
  • The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives
  • Not Quite Not White: Losing and Finding Race in America
  • The Politics of Mass Digitization
  • Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination
  • Clyde Fans
  • Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet
  • Wave
  • What Was African American Literature?
  • L'Arabe du futur 3 : Une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient, 1985-1987
See similar books…

News & Interviews

"Stay calm and read on" might be our collective slogan for the coming months. Since we all might need some help with that, we asked Goodreads m...
102 likes · 98 comments