Etched in Sand – Video, Summary & Themes

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EtchedinSand SUMMARY

Regina Calcaterra’s memoir, Etched in Sand, published by HarperCollins, William Morrow is an inspiring and triumphant coming-of-age story of tenacity and triumph. Three weeks after its release Etched in Sand debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list and nine-months later returned and rose to No. 2 on the Non-Fiction E-Books list and No. 6 on the Non-Fiction Combined Print & E-Books list (mid-2014).  Etched in Sand returned to the New York Times Best Seller list for the 17th time and the third year in a row appearing at No. 2 on the Non-Fiction E-Books list and  No.10 on the Non-Fiction Combined Print & Ebooks list (August 2015). See Etched in Sand’s reader appreciation video here.

Regina Calcaterra is an attorney working for the State of New York. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings persevered an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.

A gut wrenching and gripping story, Etched in Sand chronicles Regina’s rising above her past, while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together through it all.

Beautifully written, with heartbreaking honesty, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, one can rise above their past if they have the desire and the determination to succeed.


The middle of five children, Regina, and her siblings, Cherie, Camille, Norman and Rosie were born to the same mentally ill mother but all different fathers. Their mothers mental illness, and fathers abandonment, contributed to the families instability. They would constantly move quickly shifting from houses and apartments to trailers, homeless shelters, cars and the streets. Regardless of where they lived, the older siblings would work to make each place they lived a home for the younger siblings.

As the older girls grew they began transitioning out of the unstable living situation and by the age of twelve, Regina was left with caring for her younger siblings. Through Regina’s experiences Etched in Sand chronicles how the siblings lived on the fringe of society as they struggled to  survive. All the while avoiding the authorities by keeping a pact that it was better to stay together on their own then be separated and again placed at the hands of complete strangers.

After a brutal beating so severe it could not be hidden, a social worker made Regina, not yet fourteen, a promise: tell the truth for the first time about how they have been living in exchange for a guarantee that the system would protect them. But to do so, Regina would be breaking the pact. In a weakened moment she made a decision that she would forever regret.

Through Etched in Sand Regina shares the scrappy survival instincts, mishaps, adventures and unbreakable bonds of a group of voiceless parentless siblings.


Etched in Sand takes the readers through Regina’s experiences in and out of foster care until she ages out at the age of twenty-one. It  then moves through her adulthood while unfolding long held family secrets.  Themes that are highlighted throughout include:

  • Child hunger & poverty
  • Child abuse
  • Childhood homelessness
  • Resilience
  • Optimism
  • Self-Determination
  • Determination to succeed regardless of social status
  • Necessity of goal setting and positive thinking
  • Ability of children to cope
  • Sibling Bonds
  • Impact of Kind Acts on Children in Need
  • Risk of homelessness for young adults aging out of foster care parentless
  • Foster care system generally
  • Failure of states to share child abuse information
  • Role of public servants
  • Vital role of the public library system
  • Positive impact of the public education and public university system on impoverished children
  • How educators can forever impact transient children
  • A child’s right to now their parentage
  • Powerful role of those who are governing
  • Breaking the cycle of abuse and homelessness
  • Helping those in need so they can one day give back
  • Superstorm Sandy & Superstorm Sandy Recovery
  • New York, Long Island, Suffolk County, Manhattan, Albany & Washington State
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