Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Her Sister's Tattoo” as Want to Read:
Her Sister's Tattoo
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Her Sister's Tattoo

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  82 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Rosa and Esther march through downtown Detroit in August 1968 to protest the war in Vietnam. When a bloodied teenager reports that mounted police are beating protestors a few blocks away, the young women hurry to offer assistance. They try to stop the violence, but an officer is injured and the sisters are arrested. Rosa sees an opportunity to protest the war in court. Est ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by Red Hen Press (first published April 1st 2020)
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 Her Sister's Tattoo, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Her Sister's Tattoo

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  82 ratings  ·  42 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Her Sister's Tattoo
Jennifer Blankfein
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful story of political activism, family betrayal, allegiance and love. When two sisters get arrested during a Vietnam War protest in 1968, they must decide where their loyalties lie. In Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol, politics and family are important for both Rosa and Esther, but they each must stand up for their personal priority; their futures depend on it.

When police violence took over at a protest, the politically active sisters, Rosa and Esther, take matters into thei
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this dispiriting era in America when all the advocacy in the world doesn’t seem to influence the wrong-headed decisions of a narcissistic White House occupant nearly enough, Ellen Meeropol harkens back to the Vietnam protests when real differences were made and when young, passionate protestors quite literally changed the course of history.

She totally has the “creds” to write this book and it rings of authenticity. I’ve had the pleasure of reading all four of her books and in my opinion, this
Ellen Meeropol reminds us that although political protests can have an element of violence, it is not a new form of expressing views — it is very powerful, it can lead to a better understanding and it can insight change. This gem of a book about political activism, betrayal, family and forgiveness is incredibly appropriate for today. It is a quick read perfect for book club discussions.

Read our full review here:
Jennifer Rosner
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend! Her Sister's Tattoo shows the devastating clash of two sisters as each moves to protect what she deems most dear. With the story's action beginning at a 1968 protest against the Vietnam War, and spooling forward in time, Meeropol dramatizes political fractiousness within families, friendships, and communities—acute today as ever—and the slow dawning of compassion, tolerance, and mutual understanding. Wise, wonderful, and supremely relevant. ...more
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
[image error]
Current Quarantine read: Her Sister’s Tattoo by Ellen Meeropol. I’m not very far into it, but can tell it’s a novel that comes from deep in the heart. The author’s passion for justice shines through from the start. Before my copy arrived, I read a fascinating article by Ellen Meeropol in @momeggreview which I highly recommend you read. ( I’ve known the author for decades now, first when each of us lived lives as nurses, and continuing as we
Aimee Liu
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For Boomers, this novel will provide an arresting trip back to the fervor of 60s activism and a galvanizing leap forward to the activist challenges we face today. For younger generations, this book offers a window into the political passions that shaped 20th Century America -- and that seem increasingly distorted in the 21st Century. But at its core, this is no history book or political manifesto; it's the poignant story of two sisters torn apart by stubborn idealism and personal choice between ...more
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved Ellen Meeropol’s deft handling of this book’s premise: two sisters who essentially want the same things, but are forced by circumstances to turn on each other. She takes us into the activist world of the 1960s, and up through the modern period. Told from multiple points of view, we experience both the great damage the characters impose on their families, as well as the underlying love that brings about their salvation. It’s a difficult tale, told with beauty and compassion. I’m looking f ...more
Erika Dreifus
Hurried up and read this one ahead of a joint appearance with the author. Writing these words on May 31, 2020, I am struck by the relevance of issues of justice, actions, and consequences as they're treated in this novel with what's happening literally today. ...more
Jean K.
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ellen Meeropol’s Her Sister’s Tattoo is spell-binding fiction. It is all the more gripping because the characters in Meeropol’s novel inhabit historically plausible events. She has given us a true-to-life picture of what it actually was like to be part of the national movements protesting the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Meeropol is a master of vivid detail. The reader can smell the tear gas and hear the “protest music.”

As the novel opens, two sisters, Rosa and Esther, are part of a protest against th
Aimee Dars
Sisters Rosa and Esther are dedicated anti-war activists who have committed to do anything necessary to get the United States out of Vietnam. When they participate in a 1968 demonstration in Detroit and find a skirmish between the police and protestors a few blocks away from the peaceful march, they intervene to stop the violence. What they considered a small, justified act, however, has significant consequences, and the sisters are arrested. Esther, who has an infant daughter, decides to take a ...more
Jan 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
I originally bought this book because it begins in the summer of 1968 in Detroit and I was going to college in Detroit at this time. I was hoping that it would bring back some of my memories from that time period - I got the memories and so much more. This was a fantastic well written book about family and forgiveness, protests and the justice system but most important it was about sisters and their love for each other despite their estrangement.

In the summer of 1968, Rosa and Esther participate
Margo Littell
Her Sister’s Tattoo is the story of two sisters, Esther and Rosa, who grow up in a family of activists and are activists themselves. When an anti-war demonstration turns violent, their response will alter the course of their lives, challenging everything they believe about morality, obligation, family, and righteousness. Split for decades by their vastly different perspectives on the same events, Esther and Rosa move forward but never stop interrogating themselves or their memories of each other ...more
Jean Moore
Jun 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Here is a book of historical significance to put on your TBR list. In downtown Detroit in 1968, two sisters from a family of dissenters are protesting the war in Vietnam. On that day, one badly aimed and thrown hard, green apple causes mayhem and injury—to a mounted policeman. From the second the apple lands, the lives of these two sisters will be forever altered. One, using the event to cast light on the police brutality precipitating the clash with protesters, has her day in court—and faces pr ...more
Amy Davidman
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found the tension between the sisters and their decisions to be layered and worth extra thought, a deeper contemplation. That was what kept pulling me back to the story even though at times it was difficult to keep picking it up because of the stress of their situations. It made me look at my own life and own decisions and try to put myself in their shoes. I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting camp with them as I spent my childhood going to the camp it was based on. That camp and it's politics truly ...more
Claire S.
Jan 15, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
"...“One more word from you and I’ll hold you in contempt of court.” The judge’s words landed like spittle on Rosa’s cheeks. She ached to wipe her face. Instead she sat up straight in the witness stand, willing her hands to stay clenched in her lap. She returned his stare, imagining her own olive skin facing off against his purple complexion. Maybe he would burst a blood vessel. Imagining that worked better than picturing him walking naked down the street, the emperor without clothes—that’s what ...more
Feb 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
HER SISTER’S TATTOO, the engaging new novel by Ellen Meeropol, narrates the story of two sisters, Rosa and Esther, who have always been close but are driven apart after throwing apples in a 1968 anti-war demonstration, which results in the paralysis of a cop. Both women are arrested, but Esther, who has a young baby, strikes a plea bargain and testifies against ringleader Rosa. Furious, and dreading a life in prison, Rosa goes underground, but is later caught, arrested, and sent to prison (for a ...more
Ann Lewinson
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Celine Keating
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ellen Meeropol’s latest is perhaps the best of her many stellar works of fiction. Her greatest strength is bringing the political to the personal level, and that strength is on ample display here. A single incident of violence, its outcome unintended, leads to the estrangement of two sisters, which persists for decades. The novel explores the consequences of political activism but doesn’t come down on one side or the other. The novel asks: Was this action worth it? Did it sufficiently address so ...more
Mona  AlvaradoFrazier
Mar 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
This novel grabs you from the beginning with its 1968 scene of a Vietnam War Protest. Two sisters are caught up in the violence wrought by mounted police swinging batons and they make a split decision that haunts them for the rest of their lives. An officer is injured, both sisters are arrested and one of them ends up in prison. The story almost seems like an analogy for the USA during the time of the VietNam war.

The novel jumps to 1980, where we follow the sisters and their families through th
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two sisters, young and filled with passion for activism. One choice, one shared action, innumerable consequences that reverberate through the next decades.

It took me a little while to get into this one, but once I did, I was hooked. There are any number of dramatic events in the book, but they tend to be quite understated—making the point and then moving on, often without showing the most dramatic parts. It's a hard skill to pull off, slipping away from the drama without making the reader feel c
Alice Shechter
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Her Sister's Tattoo" is a vivid, fast paced account of two sisters who evolve (or devolve) from being the closest possible siblings to a state of bitter estrangement. They make diverging political choices and while each reader might have tendencies toward one path or the other, it is impossible not to relate to both Rosa and Esther and the decisions they make. Readers who lived through the political and social upheavals of the 60s will especially find that Ellen Meeropol has beautifully capture ...more
Kristen Millares
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In this poignant, heartfelt novel, Ellen Meeropol traces the primordial love and enduring resentments endemic to sisterhood. Her Sister's Tattoo begins when Rosa and Esther throw apples at a police officer who was beating innocent protesters; their impulsive decision becomes national news because a member of the media took a picture of the moment, which led to the maiming of the police officer by his horse, ignoring that the sisters' action was in response to police brutality. Meeropol's story p ...more
Rob Forteath
Nov 28, 2020 rated it liked it
The synopsis tells us what happens in the first half of the book, which makes for some tedium as the outline is filled in. There is almost no surprise in this part, plenty of descriptions of how the women's love for their babies is strong. This is described to us several times. The story also takes the time to show us that even the men love the babies, and it feels as though we are meant to find this surprising. Eventually the imprisonment and estrangement are fully described to us, and the book ...more
Connie Matsumoto
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the gifts offered the reader of historical fiction, is entering a world we may not have experienced in our lives, only to be reminded that we humans have always struggled with differing values and points of view in a complex world. Ellen Meeropol released Her Sister’s Tattoo in the midst of a global pandemic as fear, political divides, and words like ‘unprecedented’ swirled humanity into a frenzy. But disease, war, tumultuous politics, and family rifts have always disrupted our world, reg ...more
Gilion Dumas
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Her Sister's Tattoo, Ellen Meeropol tells the story of two sisters. They protested the Vietnam War together in Detroit in 1968, but were torn apart when one went to prison and the other testified against her to stay with her own infant daughter. Later, the daughters of the two sisters meet at summer camp, the one knowing nothing of her family history.

Meeropol moves chronologically, starting with the powerful events of 1968, following through to 1980, then jumping to a final section set in 20
Christina Chiu
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's not every day that one comes across a book that resonates in personal, political and emotional ways. Her Sister's Tattoo is more than just a story. It's about society and gives the reader a chance to ponder "fairness." What is justice and do we all have it equally? In this book, sisters, families, and communities get torn apart by a system that's rigged against them. Real lives get lost. I was so deeply satisfied by the ending, which transcended "right" and "wrong," and in the end, focused ...more
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a beautifully written, thought-provoking book! I was totally hooked on the story of the two sisters, one radical and laser-focused, the other with a more complex relationship to protest and life. The inter-generational aspect gave the story depth and resonance, and the characters—so rounded and likable. Many resonances with our circumstances today, which is sad, of course. This one will stick with me for a long time.

And I'll be interviewing Meeropol for next week's podcast on It's Just Hist
Diane Ehrensaft
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Her Sister's Tattoo is a must read for all who lived the 1960s, want to understand what is was like, or learn what it really means to say that sisterhood is powerful in every sense of the words. Ellen Meeropol is a beautiful writer and a master in capturing a period of history in time, place, thought, and feeling, while at the same time weaving together archetypal themes of relationships, politics, and commitment. ...more
Heather Booth
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The book brings the reality of those heady days of the anti-war movement to life again with the novelist's deft hand creating a narrative of the strains between family and social values that impacted so many lives.
This was so engaging and moving. Really worth reading--with relevance to the struggles of this day.

Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ellen Meeropol hits the absolute sweet spot between page-turning fiction, an eye to examining the not-to-distant past and examining political movement. HER SISTER'S TATTOO brings a story of sisters divided within a divided country. I lost hours of sleep to this novel, completely immersed in finding out the resolution of this story that is just as pertinent today. I highly recommend this book!

« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Glorious Boy
  • Rosie Colored Glasses
  • American Dirt
  • Valentine
  • Boy Oh Boy
  • A Good Marriage
  • Almost American Girl
  • Children of the Land
  • Subduction
  • Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road
  • The Authenticity Project
  • We Are Not From Here
  • The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones
  • Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks
  • 19 Love Songs
  • The Last Trial (Kindle County Book 11)
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
See similar books…
Ellen Meeropol is the author of four novels, Kinship of Clover (2017), House Arrest (2011), On Hurricane Island (2015), and Her Sister's Tattoo (2020). A former pediatric nurse practitioner, Ellen began seriously writing fiction in her fifties. She holds an MFA from the Stonecoast program at the University of Southern Maine. Her stories and essays have appeared in Guernica, Bridges, Portland Magaz ...more

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
281 likes · 27 comments