The Officer’s Daughter: A Memoir of Family and Forgiveness

Harper. Feb. 2021. 224p. ISBN 9780063011328. $27.99. MEMOIR
Screenwriter Johnson recalls the murder of her teenage cousin Karen Marsh in 1981. The author grew up in Queens, NY, in a law enforcement family; her father was a parole officer and her uncle a homicide detective. Johnson was enamored with Karen, admiring her ease and ability to navigate spaces with confidence, whether in her all-white Catholic high school or a sweet sixteen party in the Bronx with mostly Black friends. Karen’s senseless death in a Burger King robbery gone awry traumatizes the family. Johnson’s isolation from both her parents and her classmates at her mostly white school following the death of her cousin is felt keenly. Her father, mercurial and occasionally violent, wrestles with the tension between understanding how institutional racism and intergenerational poverty impact the behavior of his parolees, and frustration when they make poor choices. Johnson understands this tension and when Karen’s killer is up for parole in 2014 and her brother Warren asks her to write a letter to the parole board urging them to deny parole, she must grapple with whether or not she really believes in rehabilitation or forgiveness.
VERDICT A powerful meditation on the long aftermath of violent crime that will engage a variety of readers.
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