Motherland, Fatherland, Whateverland
Searching for Home
From the former Dutch East Indies to the Mississippi Delta, the touching, true story of a man’s search for home
Erik Smalhout was born a child of privilege in the Netherlands East Indies. Smalhout’s father sent his unruly son to a boarding school in Australia, just months before the Japanese seized the Netherlands East Indies in early 1942. While young Smalhout adapted to life in rural Australia, his sister and father back home were placed in Japanese prison camps, an experience that proved fateful for his father and changed his sister’s life forever. Serendipity followed him through induction in the WWII Dutch military, his postwar service on merchant ships circling the globe, and eventually to the most southern place on earth: the Mississippi Delta.
Smalhout spent the rest of his life adapting to challenging circumstances time after time: first as a progressive Dutchman in the American South, then as an IRS agent in the nation’s second-largest financial center, and finally as a man who, due to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, often could not identify himself. Motherland, Fatherland, Whateverland: Searching for Home is Smalhout’s memoir, edited by his granddaughter, Erika Berry, and supported with pictures and documents that he saved throughout his lifetime. Smalhout’s story reminds readers that place is secondary to experience and that no matter where we are or what fortunate or unfortunate circumstances placed us there, an eternal curiosity for humanity will help us find a place in the world.