Garbage Bag Suitcase by Shenandoah Chefalo

Garbage Bag Suitcase: A Memoir by Shenandoah Chefalo

Garbage Bag SuitcaseStars: ****
Mission Point Press (2016)
194 pages

Autobiography/Family/Relationships/Abuse/Memoir

Disclosure: This book was received for review purposes. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: Garbage Bag Suitcase is the true story of Shenandoah Chefalo’s wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood with neglectful, drug-and alcohol addicted parents. She endured numerous moves in the middle of the night with just minutes to pack, multiple changes in schools, hunger, cruelty, and loneliness. Finally at the age of 13, Shen had had enough. After being abandoned by her mother for months at her grandmother’s retirement community, she asked to be put into foster care. Surely she would fare better at a stable home than living with her mother?

It turns out that it was not the storybook ending she had hoped for. With foster parents more interested in the income received by housing a foster child, Shen was once again neglected emotionally. The money she earned working at the local grocery store was taken by her foster parents to “cover her expenses.” When a car accident lands her in the hospital with grave injuries and no one came to visit her during her three-week stay, she realizes she is truly all alone in the world. Overcoming her many adversities, Shen became part of the 3% of all foster care children who get into college, and the 1% who graduate. She became a successful businesswoman, got married, and had a daughter.

Despite her numerous achievements in life though, she still suffers from the long-term effects of neglect, and the coping skills that she adapted in her childhood are not always productive in her adult life. Garbage Bag Suitcase is not only the inspiring and hair-raising story of one woman’s journey to over- come her desolate childhood, but it also presents grass-root solutions on how to revamp the broken foster care system.

The summary pretty much covers what the book is about but I wanted to add my own thoughts on the book. It took me some time to get to this book but it was well worth the wait. The book reminds me of A Child Called It by Dave Peltzer. It’s not exactly the same but Shenandoah suffers neglect and emotional abuse and some of the things she endured were similar to some of the things Dave went through.

I feel like anyone meeting Shenandoah would not see the pain she went through on the outside. She is truly lucky to be part of the small percentage of foster children who got an education and degree but it’s not all luck. She clearly got where she is with hard work and persistence.

If either you had experience with an abusive childhood and want to see someone else’s experiences or you had a good childhood but want to understand what others have gone through, Shenandoah’s memoir will give you that idea.

Also the end of her book has information and thoughts related to foster care specifically including not just facts but possible solutions for the foster care crisis. For that reason, anyone interested in the foster care system should read this book.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.