By: Anna Casamento Arrigo
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to pick up and move to an entirely foreign land? Gathering up your loved ones and all your earthly possessions in search of a brand new life somewhere else? Moving to a land with different customs, language, culture… and in many cases, smack dab into a hostile environment. All of that would be quite intimidating for virtually anybody. However, for a small seven year old child it would be entirely overwhelming. In Weeds Beneath the Open Meadows by Anna Casamento Arrigo, a poignant Memoir outlining a personal immigrant experience in America is provided. Both poetic and beautiful, it is an eminently raw portrayal of a young girl’s coming of age in a strange land.
Weeds Beneath the Open Meadows is classified as a Memoir, and it certainly meets all the requirements of that genre. It explores the many childhood memories and experiences of the author. As readers, we are able to travel with Anna as she leaves the beautiful countryside and meadows of Italy and arrives at the concrete jungle of New Jersey. A stranger in a strange land. We are then able to see how Anna and her family begin to transition to their new home. Nevertheless, the many experiences which young Anna undergoes are much more than a typical Memoir. Weeds Beneath the Open Meadows is also a passionate social commentary on topics such as poverty, abuse, grief and the immigrant experience. All seen through the eyes of an innocent little girl.
There can be little doubt that this Memoir is a very raw account of the author’s young life. It contains physical and sexual exploitation, as well as psychological and emotional abuse. All of this occurs as the reader is able to see the struggles of new immigrants settling in America firsthand. It is quite frequently not the land paved with riches for everyone that it is often made out to be. In many instances, new arrivals struggle with poverty and overall acceptance by others on a daily basis. Despite all of these heart-wrenching factors, family and love remain at the core of this Memoir. This is emphasized in an extremely touching manner as we see how Anna copes and comes to terms with the loss of her father. Heartbreaking and emotionally charged. We feel her grief, confusion and despair as she reveals all in a very cathartic manner.
Due to the subject matter, this Memoir can be difficult to read at times. To know a child suffered in the manner she did is hard to accept. This was alleviated however by the pure beauty of the writing. It is very poetic in nature and full of imagery which is easily pictured within the mind. It is presented as a series of experiences and anecdotes which naturally flow into one another. Not only are we captivated by Anna’s own life and growth, but as readers we are also mesmerized by the assortment of vivid descriptions. In particular, the image of Anna as a child dancing in a meadow in Italy is burned right into my brain. The juxtaposition of this alongside abuse which is then suffered in New Jersey, is a very strong symbolism for the loss of innocence. Indeed, the loss of innocence and coming to terms with it in an aura of love and kindness is what this book is truly about.
I would highly recommend this book to all adult readers. As mentioned, due to the subject matter, there are parts which are difficult to read… but the overall package is poetically beautiful!
5 out of 5 Poetic Stars for this one! *****