Regina Calcaterra’s groundbreaking novel Etched in Sand chronicles the depths of a world that would rather be left unexplored. Calcaterra’s memoir dives into detailed experiences of what it is like to bounce between foster homes and an unstable, dangerous environment with her biological mother, deemed Cookie by her children, as the chief abuser. It draws you into the mindset of a child who sees an ordinary telephone as a defense weapon. It is the story of a young adult that has been raised on the belief that her name can be easily substituted with slut or whore, and finally a grown woman who despite breaking through the near impossible cycle of despair, continues to unsuccessfully strive to break her sister away from this desperate life.
I read this book, similarly to how I watch horror movies, with one eye open and one eye closed. I am too scared to watch the atrocities, but unable to peel my eyes away from the movie. This woman’s tragic upbringing right in our own backyard (in Suffolk County, Long Island) will open your eyes and sympathies to the struggles that 164,831 abused kids and 20,359 foster kids in New York State face. As Friends Academy students, we are all privileged in ways these kids can not even imagine and that makes this book all the more important. With that in mind, it was a painful book to read cover to cover, with each page exposing you to a new problematic and horrific situation Regina is forced to face. The scenes that detailed Regina and her siblings’ survival methods were by far some of the most heartbreaking paragraphs I have ever read, only rivaled by the moments of the abuse she experienced at Cookie’s hands. Reading about them lying to landlords, stealing from grocery stores, and sacrificing themselves to protect the younger children all to stay alive tugged on my heart strings and provoked me to want to sell my house, donate all of my money, and adopt a bunch of foster kids. Regina’s success story is a must read for anyone who is willing to take a second look at the ‘ugly’ aspects of the society we live in. No doubt it will reinforce the power of education and reconfirm the necessity to never stop asking questions when you spot a bruise from a kid’s “tumble down the stairs”. In conclusion, Regina Calcaterra’s story is a captivating read about a child’s triumphant pursuit of a healthy life against all odds and I encourage the Friends Academy community read Etched In Sand if they have the chance.