A political activist from the ’60s through the early ’80s recounts her arduous journey from the FBI’s most-wanted list through a 16-year incarceration in maximum-security prisons.
Rosenberg was radicalized during the antiwar and black-power movements, and eventually went underground in the early ’80s after the FBI indicted her in a robbery-conspiracy case that resulted in the death of several officers. While unloading a vast cache of explosives in a U-haul van to a storage place in New Jersey in 1984, she was arrested and sentenced to 58 years in federal prison. Rosenberg and her partner maintained that they “were part of an organized illegal resistance movement [and] acting out of conscience.” Subsequently, they were treated as terrorists and subjected to the most stringent lock-up conditions in maximum-security prisons across the country. High-profile female political prisoners were unusual in government facilities at the time, and the correctional institution in Tucson, Ariz., housed more than 1,000 men and four women. The women were stuck in segregation with little natural light and few visits from lawyers, and a good part of the memoir discusses the appalling conditions, vindictive officers and clueless bureaucracy. From Tucson, Rosenberg was moved to facilities in Lexington, Ky.; Washington, D.C., where she was indicted on new charges of trying to bomb the U.S. Capitol; Mariana, Fla.; and Danbury, Conn. Her period of incarceration coincided with the burgeoning crack and AIDS epidemic, and Rosenberg became a vociferous advocate and health counselor. She writes movingly of her reconciliation with her parents and last visit to her dying father, as well as relationships made with other women prisoners. While denied parole, she was eventually pardoned by Bill Clinton in 2001.
Articulate and clear-eyed, Rosenberg’s memoir memorably records the struggles of a woman determined to be the agent of her own life.