Thursday, August 22, 2013

Etched in Sand

 Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra
HarperCollins: 8/6/2013
Trade Paperback,
306 pages

In this story of perseverance in the face of adversity, Regina Calcaterra recounts her childhood in foster care and on the streets—and how she and her savvy crew of homeless siblings managed to survive years of homelessness, abandonment, and abuse
Regina Calcaterra's emotionally powerful memoir reveals how she endured a series of foster homes and intermittent homelessness in the shadow of the Hamptons, and how she rose above her past while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together.
Beautifully written and heartbreakingly honest, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed.
My Thoughts:

 Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra is the true story of the abuse and neglect the author and her siblings suffered  through - at the hands of their mother and in a system that wasn't working as it should. Regina notes that her childhood made her very aware of how people in power can impact the lives of others and this knowledge helped lead her to her present day career in public service. 

Regina has two older sisters, Cherie and Camille, and a younger brother and sister, Norman and Rosie.  Regina makes it clear that their mother, Cookie, was a drunk who  was always avoiding the cops. She abused and neglected her children, abandoning them for weeks at a time. She stole, wrote bad checks, and always had a series of warrants out for her arrest. While Cookie's "aim is to put in as little effort as possible to get what she can from whom she can, including the system (pg.31)" Regina (and her older sisters) wanted to keep themselves out of the system entirely. 

These children were in an impossible situation. With their mother there was rampant abuse and neglect for certain, but in the system (foster care) lurked other very real potential dangers. As I was reading this powerful memoir, I literally had to set the book aside several times. It was so frustrating to see a system that wasn't working or groups that were unable to work together or across state lines. 

It was encouraging and inspirational to see how Regina overcame the odds. As an emancipated teen in the system it certainly appeared that she would be lucky to escape from her childhood without any long term trauma. To see how hard and tirelessly Regina worked to overcome her background is a testimony to her determination. The determination she had to try and keep her siblings together or in contact with each other was touching.

At the same time, Regina is trying to confirm that her father really is the man Cookie has always said is her father. He won't admit it is true but the evidence seems to confirm Cookie is telling the truth. It was good to see a conclusion to this question, although the fact that she had to ask it is heart-breaking.

In Etched in Sand Regina writes about her childhood in the present tense with a simple straightforward honesty which makes the narrative feel more raw and tragic, if that is even possible. We know she survived this horrific childhood to become the successful adult she is today, but while reading about some of the abuse... It's probably for the best that it is written in this manner, a recounting of the facts as she experienced them when a child.

This is a well-written personal account of a woman who overcame a deplorable childhood. It might be difficult for some people to read about the abuse, but for those who can, the triumphant conclusion of Regina's story today will outshine the appalling facts of her childhood.

Very Highly Recommended


Regina Calcaterra was appointed executive director of New York State's Moreland Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response by Governor Andrew Cuomo after she assisted in the recovery of Superstorm Sandy in her capacity as chief deputy executive for Suffolk County. She has provided commentary on politics and policy on national and local media outlets since 2000 and is a passionate advocate for the adoption of older foster children.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins and TLC for review purposes. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That triumphant conclusion is what makes me love these kinds of books so much - it it amazing what people can overcome.

Thanks for being on the tour.