“Essential. . . this strong narrative points to the realities of the United States’ criminal justice system and how it can fail the most vulnerable.” ― Library Journal (starred review)

Writer and activist Michelle Horton is the author of Dear Sister: A Memoir of Secrets, Survival, and Unbreakable Bonds. The book details the events surrounding a high-profile case in New York State and centers on two sisters: Nikki Addimando, incarcerated for killing her longtime abuser; and Michelle, who is left in the devastating fall-out to raise Nikki’s young children and to battle the criminal justice system.

In a Publishers Weekly starred review, Dear Sister was described as, “incendiary…a powerful testament to the tenacity of sisterly bonds, a scathing indictment of the legal landscape for abused women, and a wrenching exploration of the shame that allows abuse to remain hidden.” Best-selling author Rachel Louise Snyder, wrote: “The sheer scale of what Michelle Horton has done — in this book, in her life, in telling her sister’s story and her own, in her very survival — will leave you awestruck…I don’t think anyone will read this book and not want to take to the streets and demand we do better…In a word, this book is miraculous.”

An Amazon Editor’s Pick, Dear Sister has gained national attention and received coverage in numerous outlets including The New York Times and The Nation. Interviews with Michelle have appeared on Good Morning America, Nightline, Tamron Hall, NPR’s Here & Now, and a variety of nationally syndicated radio shows and podcasts. The book has become a cause célèbre in New York’s Hudson Valley, featured on several bestseller lists and drawing large audiences at talks, signings, and presentations in such venues as Vassar College, Marist College, and Connecticut’s Domestic Violence Crisis Center (DVCC). Michelle was the recipient of the 2024 Hope Award from Fearless! Of The Hudson Valley.

Michelle is an advocate for criminalized survivors and their families, with a unique skill in community building and grassroots, mission-driven organizing. She is the co-founder of the Nicole Addimando Community Defense Committee, an advocacy group that brings awareness to the criminalization of domestic violence survivors and promotes activism for change. Under the auspices of this committee, Michelle continues to speak out on behalf of the countless other women punished for surviving abuse.

Michelle lives in the Hudson Valley in New York, with her sister, who was released from prison in January 2024, and their children.

Michelle's Featured Titles

Dear Sister: A Memoir of Secrets, Survival, and Unbreakable Bonds

Grand Central Publishing |


A breathtaking memoir about two sisters and a high-profile case: Nikki Addimando, incarcerated for killing her longtime abuser; and the author, Michelle Horton, left in the devastating fall-out to raise Nikki’s young children and to battle the criminal justice system.

In September 2017, a knock on the door from police upends Michelle Horton’s life forever: her sister had just shot her partner and was now in jail. Everything Michelle thought she knew about her family unraveled in that moment. During the investigation that follows, Michelle learns that Nikki had been hiding horrific abuse for years.

Stunned to find herself in a situation she’d only ever encountered on television and true crime podcasts, Michelle rearranges her life to care for Nikki’s children and simultaneously launches a fight to bring Nikki home, squaring off against a criminal justice system seemingly designed to punish the entire family.

In this exquisite memoir, Michelle retraces the sisters’ childhood and explores how so many people, including herself, could have been blind to the abuse. An intimate look at a family surviving trauma, Dear Sister is a deeply personal story about what it takes to be believed and the danger of keeping truths hidden. Ultimately, Horton turns her family’s suffering into hard won wisdom: a profound story of resilience and the unbreakable bond between sisters.


“They won't believe you:" How our legal system criminalizes survival – and what we can do about it.

This talk can be tailored to a variety of audiences, including: domestic violence supporters, law students/college students, civil servants and attorneys, social justice advocates, and more.

Through a mixture of storytelling and interactive discussions, participants will gain a deep understanding of how the system can fail domestic violence survivors and replicate the tactics of an abuser, leading to compounded trauma and injustice. By examining the intricate layers of bias, misconception, and institutional shortcomings, attendees will explore the urgent need for change within the legal system.

Topics may include:

1. Understanding the dynamics of interpersonal violence: Participants will gain insights into the complexity of abusive relationships, the barriers victims face in seeking help, and the profound impact of trauma on survivors.

2. What it means to be a criminalized survivor: Highlighting the shocking prevalence of the practice of punishing victims in our court and prison systems.

3. Examining the legal system’s failures: Through the lens of Nikki’s case and Michelle’s advocacy work, attendees will analyze the shortcomings of the justice system in recognizing and responding to interpersonal violence, revealing the pervasive disbelief and marginalization that survivors encounter.

4. Fostering compassionate and equitable justice: Through thought-provoking discussion, participants will explore the essential role of empathy, education, and awareness in reshaping the legal landscape to better serve survivors of domestic abuse.

5. Understanding secondary victimization: Interpersonal violence impacts more than two individuals in a private relationship. This talk will highlight how an entire family and community was traumatized and forever changed by the Nikki Addimando case.

6. Empowering change agents: practical strategies for supporting survivors, challenging societal attitudes, and driving systemic change.


The Girl Who Cried Wolf: listening to our daughters

This talk connects our cultural stories with society’s failure to help victims of domestic violence find safety and justice. Focusing on entrenched biases and inherited gender modeling, it will also highlight the ways generational trauma can keep us blind to abuse happening right in front of us, and all of the reasons we collectively look away and disbelieve survivors.


Wild Purple Flowers: empowering change agents

This talk focuses on the power of philanthropy and grassroots activism in creating social change, through the lens of the We Stand With Nikki movement. Facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, Michelle will demonstrate how, step by step, she enlisted support from others in building a community of action on Nikki’s behalf. This talk will empower participants to become advocates for justice reform, equipping them with practical strategies for supporting survivors, challenging societal attitudes, and driving systemic change.


"When is Mom Coming Home?" The Children of Incarceration

This talk will focus on the experience of raising children traumatized by domestic violence and parental incarceration. It will provide insight into the ways children of violent homes and systems are often disregarded as collateral damage and callously disadvantaged by the court and correctional systems, and discuss techniques of trauma-informed parenting and play therapy to mitigate the after-effects of trauma.


The Tree In The Middle of the Storm: Weathering deep grief, uncertainty, and family trauma.

Inspired by a mantra that Michelle’s sister repeated to herself in jail, this talk will focus on the experience of surviving a 7-year span of extreme uncertainty and chaos, and the mental, emotional, and spiritual tools used to get Michelle’s family through to the other side. It will empower participants to step up and show up when faced with a similarly unimaginable situation.

Michelle’s Events Link

Michelle’s Resources Page

We Stand With Nikki Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Starred reviews in:
Publishers Weekly
Library Journal

Bestseller at:
Oblong Books (Rhinebeck, NY)
Split Rock Books (Cold Springs, NY)

The Mid-Hudson Library System’s Most Requested Books

2024 Hope Award Recepient from Fearless! Of The Hudson Valley

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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