Smith-Six, Mariette. Visiting the Past: A Memoir of a Belgian-American Immigrant. [Port Huron, Mich.: Privately Printed,] 2010. 230 p. ISBN 978-0-615-38969-1.
That every immigrant story is unique is demonstrated in Mariette Smith-Six’ memoir Visiting the Past: A Memoir of a Belgian-American. Economic and political “push- and pull” factors play a role, as does “chain migration,” but in the end, specific events in an individual’s life are what drives the immigrant’s decision to leave home, family, and all that is familiar, and depart for the unknown. For Mariette’s parents it was the disappointment with their landlord and their feeling of betrayal. Her parents’ dream of owning the house, which they had painstakingly remodeled to make it into a flourishing store, collapsed. Letters from her father’s cousin in Canada, brought promises for a new future. What happens next is recounted in a personal way by Mariette, who was 15 when her family departed for Canada in 1951. The story is one of heartbreak, hard work, and dogged determination, as well as friendship and support found among the Belgian-American community in Detroit, Michigan.
The narrative especially caught my interest when I learned that the cousin who enticed Mariette’s family to move to Abbotsford, British Columbia, was the daughter of a wealthy landowner who grew up in my home town Kalmthout! She had fallen in love with the gardener’s son, and amid the opposition of this affair, the lovers had immigrated to Canada. Of course, I intend to find out more about this family.
Meanwhile, Mariette’s memoir is a wonderful example of the immigrant memoir genre. The narrative flows well, is easy to follow, and contains lots of small details that help the reader picture what life was like for Mariette and her family, from the seasick voyage across the Atlantic, and the language barrier during the early months, to the working conditions of the new immigrants, and the bonds they kept with family and friends back home.
Order/Contact Info: Mariette Smith, P.O. Box 611575, Port Huron MI 48061 – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cite this post
Kristine Smets. “Visiting the Past with Mariette Smith-Six,”The Belgian American (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed [date]), posted 22 January 2019.