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.
Regina and her four siblings survived extreme abuse and neglect at the hands of their mentally ill mother. Cookie was a woman who "left behind scorched earth" wherever she went. Unstable, promiscuous and violently abusive, she had five children by five different men. Chaos and instability reigned throughout Calcaterra's childhood. Early on, Cookie left the children with relatives or took them to live with new boyfriends. But as her alcoholism and mental illness worsened, she left them in homeless shelters, trailers, parking lots, run-down apartments or houses and then vanished, often for weeks or months at a time.
To survive, they stole food and clothes. They lied about their mother's whereabouts, as well as the burns, bruises and scratches that appeared on their bodies when she was home. Calcaterra emancipated herself at age 14 and reluctantly went to live with foster parents. Woven into the narrative is Calcaterra’s search to discover the identity of her birth father, a man who resisted acknowledging that he is her parent; this conflict led to a landmark court decision in the state of Washington over an adult child’s right to an accurate determination of paternity; it also led to a touching reunion with other members of her birth father’s family.
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.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
Fourteen year old Peewee and her brother, Jake are the main characters.
It is 1914, a time when there were expectation of females, and not one of them revolved around fixing cars. None the less, that is what Peewee and her brother do to make a living.
A fateful afternoon, all that changes with the arrival of four women who decided that they want to run the public library. All four are earning their degrees, and they recognize that this town needs them just as much as they need the town.
Changes abound throughout and ultimately a sweet coming of age tale is spun. Can a functioning library not only change a person but an entire town?
Thursday, August 22, 2013
In the summer of 1936 James Agee, freshly out of college and a young staff writer at Fortune magazine, was sent to Alabama on an assignment to write a story about the conditions of tenant farmers. Because Agee’s unconventional approach to the story and his raw and realistic description of the deplorable conditions that these cotton farmers endured, Fortune never published the story. In 1941, Agee took his transcripts and the ideas from the Fortune assignment and published Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a book that rattled journalistic and literary style. James Agee poet, novelist, journalist, film critic, and social activist, would move on to lead an unorthodox, hard-driving life that would result in an early death at the tender age of 46.
Fifty years after the Fortune assignment, Agee’s original manuscript was uncovered and recently published in Cotton Tenants: Three Families. The story is accompanied by the stark and beautiful photographs by Walker Evans, who was on loan from the Resettlement Administration when he collaborated with Agee.
Agee’s writing and Walkers striking images offer a stunning revelation of three families who struggled to eek out a living in the hard scrabble conditions of the South during the Great Depression. Each chapter of the 224 page book addresses an essential component of life; Business, Shelter, Food, Clothing, Work, Picking Season, Education, Leisure, and Health. The brief chapter titles suggest that Agee’s attempt was to present a very factual account of these farmers. But, what he did was provide facts that read like poetry. I felt myself drawn back into time and place where I could almost smell the scorched black coffee on the stove, feel the threadbare flours sacks that were reinvented into clothing, and feel the finger-numbing and back-breaking job of picking cotton.
This book is beautifully written and if you have even a glimmer of interest in this time period, I am confident that you will love it. In writing of three tenant families, Agee lifts up their lives and salutes them for living it with strength, integrity and humility.
Thursday, August 15, 2013
Thursday, August 08, 2013
Edison is a gifted jazz pianist, Solstice is a typical sensitive baby of the family and Pandora is a normal middle child until she fumbles her way into owing a business that makes custom dolls that has made her independently wealthy.
When older brother Edison needs a place to stay for a couple of months, Pandora is excited because she hasn't seen her brother for several years, but her husband is reluctant. Imagine Pandora's surprise when she picks Edison up at the airport and learns that he weighs 386 pounds!
Pandora decides she must help her brother because he has no one else in his life. She takes an apartment with Edison and they both exist on 4 protein powder packets per day. Read the book to see if Edison looses the weight and gets back to playing jazz, and if Pandora's marriage can survive living away from her reluctant husband.
You'll be surprised by the ending!