At a time when radical movements are on the rise, we find in Her Sister’s Tattoo exactly what we now need: both caution and hope.” —Angela Y. Davis
Her Sister’s Tattoo and Camp Kinderland
We were thrilled when we found out that much of Elli Meeropol’s new novel, Her Sister’s Tattoo, is set in Camp Kinderland, unnamed but easily recognizable.
A couple months (and a hundred years ago), we had planned a small in-person booklaunchparty that would serve also as a fundraiser for Camp Kinderland. Due to current circumstances, we have opted for a digital alternative.
Below, you will find a video clip of Elli reading from Her Sister’s Tattoo, as well as an author’s note, and a review by our Camp Director Emeritus, Alice Shechter.
As for our planned fundraiser, Elli offered to donate $10 to Camp Kinderland for every book purchased from Red Hen Press, bookshop.org, or your local bookstore.
To make sure that your purchase contributes to our fundraiser, please forward a copy of your receipt to email@example.com, subject: Kinderland Fundraiser- Her Sister’s Tattoo
Alice Shechter reviews Her Sister’s Tattoo
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.
The Camp Kinderland community will particularly relate to Loon Lake, the unique summer camp that the sisters, and later their children, attend. You’ll recognize many of the touchstones of life at Kinderland, and take special joy in understanding that for Ellen Meeropol, as for hundreds of others then and now, our messages of social activism and social justice continue to shape people’s lives. (For more about Ellen Meeropol’s relationship with Camp, read the Author’s note below.)
Readers who lived through the political and social upheavals of the 60s will especially find that Ellen Meeropol has beautifully captured a time and place, and the forces that were (and still are!) at work on people who believe the larger world, but also the smaller worlds of community and family, need commitment, devotion, passion and yes, love. Establishing those priorities is the task for all of us, and Meeropol lays that out with deep empathy and skill.
Author’s note: Camp Kinderland and Her Sister’s Tattoo
I never wanted to write a novel about the Rosenberg case. But twenty years ago, I wrote a short story titled “In Whose Camp?” about two 12-year-old girls at a left-wing summer camp who discover a shared legacy: their mothers are sisters who were ripped apart by political disagreement and betrayal. That story grew into a novel. One with striking similarity to our own family legacy of close siblings, Ethel Rosenberg and David Greenglass, who were targeted in the McCarthy nightmare and torn apart by impossible choices.
Setting part of the novel in a camp very much like Kinderland felt perfect. I first visited Kinderland in the early 1970’s when my husband Robby’s cousin, Phil Loeb, ran the food service and his daughters were campers. We kept visiting when my niece and nephew, Ivy and Greg, attended camp. My daughters, Jenn and Rachel, were campers in the 1980s; Rachel worked at camp and wrote her college senior honor thesis (“Playing with Politics: the transmission and appropriation of social and political values at a progressive summer camp.”) My granddaughter Josie and her cousin Dylan return for their third summer in 2020. Josie will be twelve years old.
This idea, of how we transmit values of activism from one generation to the next, is central to our family. It is the impetus behind the Rosenberg Fund for Children, the organization Robby started thirty years ago that our daughter Jenn now leads. It is a theme – and a question – in this novel. What happens when two sisters who love each other profoundly are arrested, charged with felonies, and disagree fiercely about how to respond? How do activists balance responsibility to their children and their political passions? Can family betrayal be forgiven?
Of course, fiction mixes history with imagination, fact with creativity. Loon Lake Camp in the novel is very much like Kinderland, but the setting in the southern White Mountains is very similar to another progressive institution I love, World Fellowship Center. Incorporating these two beloved places into the novel is an homage to the communities we build and support.
Her Sister’s Tattoo is both a political story, bracketed by antiwar protests of 1968 and 2003, and a very personal story of family loyalty, betrayal, and compassion.
“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 Tattoo exactly what we now need: both caution and hope.”
—Angela Y. Davis
“A sensitive exploration of the excruciating dilemmas of seeking to end horrendous crimes while keeping to the principle ‘First, do no harm.’”
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, author of Woman on the Edge of Time
Where to buy Her Sister’s Tattoo
We recommend purchasing Her Sister’s Tattoo from an independent retailer such as bookshop.org, Red Hen Press, or on the website of your local bookstore.
Lastly, don’t forget to send a copy of your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org so that it will count towards our fundraiser.