A Brazilian-born Swedish woman’s account of childhood poverty and reconciling her early trauma with her experiences in adulthood.
In 2012, Rickardsson discovered that she had suddenly “hit the wall.” Gradually, it became clear that her troubled past had finally caught up with her. Growing up, she and her younger brother, Patrick, had lived a feral existence alongside their schizophrenic single mother, Petronilia, in a series of caves just outside São Paulo. As difficult as their circumstances were, their mother still managed to make their lives bearable through her unstinting love. Eventually, the family made their way to São Paulo’s favelas, where Petronilia worked menial jobs and Rickardsson quickly learned that survival meant doing whatever it took to secure a meal. In one disturbing episode, she recounts how she inadvertently killed a young boy who tried to steal her food scraps. But the author never forgot the stolen moments of joy she experienced with other street children. Petronilia eventually left her children in an orphanage that brokered their adoption into a Swedish family. Life in Europe was far easier materially, but emotionally, Rickardsson realized she had been “split in two.” On the outside, she was Christina, the brown-skinned girl who strove to fit into a white, upper-middle-class Swedish world. On the inside, she was Christiana, the scrappy street fighter who bore the weight of a painful past. Rickardsson’s breakthrough came when she found the name of the orphanage from which she had been adopted. Seeking to bridge the gap between who she was and who she became, the author flew to Brazil to find her mother and come to terms with her past. Both candid and compelling, Rickardsson’s story is not only about a woman seeking to heal the fractures inherent in a transnational identity; it is also a moving meditation on poverty, injustice, and the meaning of family.
A thought-provoking and humane memoir of survival and self-discovery.