Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems

  • Review
By – September 16, 2022

In beau­ti­ful, flow­ing, heart-wrench­ing verse, Bar­bara Kras­ner tells the sto­ry of Ethel Rosen­berg. Con­vict­ed as a spy and sent to the elec­tric chair, she is por­trayed here as a lov­ing moth­er, devot­ed wife, and car­ing mem­ber of her extend­ed fam­i­ly — a fam­i­ly whose oth­er mem­bers are far less faith­ful, and even will­ing to use her for their own polit­i­cal aims.

Build­ing on exten­sive research, the author paints a pic­ture so evoca­tive that the read­er feels immersed in the moment and thus afraid. Julius Rosen­berg makes an impor­tant appear­ance, but this one is tru­ly Ethel’s sto­ry. Told from her shift­ing and matur­ing points of view, it offers a glimpse into her thoughts and hopes, lov­ing heart, and warm nature. 

Ethel’s child­hood in New York City’s rich­ly drawn, Jew­ish Low­er East Side segues grad­u­al­ly into an adult­hood dur­ing which her altru­is­tic nature finds expres­sion in polit­i­cal activism — but her main ener­gies are spent nur­tur­ing her hus­band and chil­dren. It is through poet­ic lan­guage and sen­si­tive sto­ry­telling that Kras­ner reveals how Ethel moves from fam­i­ly life to the elec­tric chair and last­ing notoriety.

A tri­umphant com­bi­na­tion of poet­ry and his­to­ry, this book can be used by teach­ers, par­ents, and group lead­ers for dis­cus­sion and analysis.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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