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I was wandering through Horizon Books today and happened across a book event with Shenandoah Chefalo. The northern Michigan author was reading from her new book, “Garbage Bag Suitcase: A Memoir.” I haven’t read it yet, but it’s definitely going on my must-read list. More info…

“Garbage Bag Suitcase” tells the true story of Shenandoah Chefalo’s 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.

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Finally at the age of 13, she’d 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. Turns out it wasn’t the storybook ending she 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 realized she was truly all alone in the world. Overcoming her many adversities, Shen became part of the 3 percent of all foster care children who make it into college, and the 1 percent who graduate. She went on to become 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 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.



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