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Red Star Tattoo: My Life as a Girl Revolutionary

por Sonja Larsen

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1711,017,011 (4.5)7
Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction Finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction   Red Star Tattoo is Sonja Larsen's unforgettable memoir of a young life spent on the move, from hardscrabble Milwaukee to dreamy Hawaii, from turbulent Montreal to free-spirited California. At 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 the side of a country road with a young man she barely knows. They're hitchhiking from a commune in Quebec to one in California. It is 1973 and somehow the girl's parents think this is a good idea.     Sonja Larsen's is a childhood in which family members come and go and where freedom is both a gift and a burden. Her mother, thrown out of home as a pregnant teenager by her evangelical preacher father, is drawn to the utopian ideals and radical politics of communism. Her aunt Suzie is gripped by schizophrenia, her behaviour so erratic she eventually loses custody of her daughter. And then there is her cousin Dana, shunted back and forth long-distance between her parents--Dana, whose own need to escape leads to tragedy.      Looking for a sense of family, searching to belong, to have your life mean something--this is what all these girls and young women share. As a teenager, Larsen moves to Brooklyn, embedding herself with an organization known publicly as the National Labor Federation and privately as the Communist Party USA Provisional Wing. Over her three years at the organization's national headquarters, Larsen works sixteen-hour day, eager to prove herself. Noticed and encouraged by the Old Man, the organization's charismatic leader, he makes her one of his "special girls," as well as the youngest member of the organization's militia and part of its inner circle. But even as she and her comrades count down the days on the calendar until the dawning of their new American revolution, Larsen's doubts about the cause and the Old Man become increasingly difficult to ignore.      Red Star Tattoo explores the seductions and dangers of extremism, and asks what it takes to survive a childhood scarred by loss, abuse and the sometimes violent struggle for belonging.… (más)
Añadido recientemente porShanLand, OptimisticCautiously, bomedz007, LynnB
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In the acknowledgement section, the author says "It goes without saying that you cannot write a family memoir without a fucked-up family and so I thank my family for the bad decisions that made for good stories and the good intentions that made it bearable." And that is a good summary of Sonja Larsen's life story. So many bad choices but enough love and honesty to allow Ms. Larsen to become a writer and someone who works with youth at risk.

Sonja didn't have a typical upbringing. Early in her life, her family moved to a commune in Quebec. From there, she moved to California -- several months in advance of her parents and older sister, she was sent with a 20-something young man to California to being a new commune. She went early because he was more likely to get a hitch-hiked ride by having a child with him. She describes how she needed to look "sad but hopeful" to attract a ride -- she is eight years old. Her early life was almost entirely lacking in structure. She went to school, but didn't have to take math, or wear clothes.

Give the freedom of her upbringing, it is understandable that, as a teenager, she joined with can best be described as a cult, complete with a charismatic, egotistical, cruel leader and total control over every hour of her day. She thrived in that environment for a while probably because she finally had some structure in her life.

I was so impressed by the underlying strength of character and sense of self that no situation could completely destroy in Ms. Larsen. I was grateful for her honesty in talking about her life, and what that honesty can teach all of us about freedom. I admire her ability to accept her parents for who and what they are. I love her older sister who was a stabilizing influence and, from what we see of her, another strong person.

An amazing life story that may, at times, make your hair stand on end but ultimately give you a sense that we can do good in the world. ( )
  LynnB | Jul 22, 2017 |
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...when I finally tell my family I'm going to publish a book my mother will write to me that she is "honored to be the mother of a writer." My sister will ask if there's anything she can do to help. And my father will call me and say, "If you have to choose between my feelings and the truth, pick the truth. Say whatever you have to say."
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Winner of the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction Finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction   Red Star Tattoo is Sonja Larsen's unforgettable memoir of a young life spent on the move, from hardscrabble Milwaukee to dreamy Hawaii, from turbulent Montreal to free-spirited California. At 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 the side of a country road with a young man she barely knows. They're hitchhiking from a commune in Quebec to one in California. It is 1973 and somehow the girl's parents think this is a good idea.     Sonja Larsen's is a childhood in which family members come and go and where freedom is both a gift and a burden. Her mother, thrown out of home as a pregnant teenager by her evangelical preacher father, is drawn to the utopian ideals and radical politics of communism. Her aunt Suzie is gripped by schizophrenia, her behaviour so erratic she eventually loses custody of her daughter. And then there is her cousin Dana, shunted back and forth long-distance between her parents--Dana, whose own need to escape leads to tragedy.      Looking for a sense of family, searching to belong, to have your life mean something--this is what all these girls and young women share. As a teenager, Larsen moves to Brooklyn, embedding herself with an organization known publicly as the National Labor Federation and privately as the Communist Party USA Provisional Wing. Over her three years at the organization's national headquarters, Larsen works sixteen-hour day, eager to prove herself. Noticed and encouraged by the Old Man, the organization's charismatic leader, he makes her one of his "special girls," as well as the youngest member of the organization's militia and part of its inner circle. But even as she and her comrades count down the days on the calendar until the dawning of their new American revolution, Larsen's doubts about the cause and the Old Man become increasingly difficult to ignore.      Red Star Tattoo explores the seductions and dangers of extremism, and asks what it takes to survive a childhood scarred by loss, abuse and the sometimes violent struggle for belonging.

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