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Married at Fourteen: A True Story Paperback – October 1, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


''Lucy Day's story of her life as a teenage mother and beyond is one of the great American contemporary memoirs.''
--Herbert Gold, author of Fathers: A Novel in the Form of a Memoir

''Told with self-lacerating honesty and unvarnished prose that rises on command to poetic intensity...[Day's] autobiographical quest, an anguished yet often touching family chronicle spanning three generations, transports the narrator across badlands of emotional chaos on her improbable route to domestic serenity and high accomplishments in both the arts and sciences.''
--Richard Kluger, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Ashes to Ashes

''Day's memoir proves that truth isn't just stranger than fiction, it can be astonishing. The author went from teenage wild child and biker chick to prize-winning poet and holder of four advanced degrees. The mature Lucy writes about this unlikely trajectory with clarity, wit, and affection for her younger self, a fourteen-year-old child bride and a disaster waiting to happen. You won't find a more likable voice on the page, or a tale with a more satisfying ending. Parents of teenage forces of nature, take heart.''
--Cyra McFadden, author of The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County

''Married at Fourteen catches a social class that is uniquely American but resonates with what I know of working people worldwide. Although the rebellion against mothers is universal, Day carries it to a new extreme. And yet the tone is calm, upbeat, and humorous, and she emerges a confident, strong woman whose values are tested and clarified in this exceptional memoir.''
--Leo Litwak, author of The Medic: Life and Death in the Last Days of WWII

''The saga Married at Fourteen is many things: both a cautionary tale and a tale of redemption, a multigenerational account of the passing of an era, a parable of the Prodigal Daughter, a gripping narrative rendered from a tenacious memory, a scientist's precision, and an artist's sensitivity. Parents should read this book, teachers and counselors, dreamers and seekers, anyone who wants to read a book that once you pick up you'll find hard to put down. While you will not condone all of Lucille Lang Day's actions--she does not expect you to--you will understand, sympathize, and perhaps sometimes see yourself more clearly.''
--Adam David Miller, winner of PEN/Oakland's Josephine Miles National Literary Award for 2011 Lifetime Achievement and author of Ticket to Exile

''An honest and engaging memoir about a spirited woman who always knew what she wanted, even when--especially when--it was bad for her. Lucille Lang Day's successful quest for fulfillment in romance, marriage, motherhood, education, and career makes a fascinating read.''
--Molly Giles, author of Iron Shoes

''Day gives eloquent voice to the teenager she once was--precocious, beautiful, hungry for love and adventure, disrespectful of conventions, adept at getting into serious trouble. Her memoir is sexy, funny and endearingly honest...It challenges the conventional wisdom that a teenage mom and dropout has no future and reminds us that rebellious kids who defy authority may become--as has Day--the innovators and creators that our culture needs.'' --Naomi Ruth Lowinsky, Ph.D., M.F.T., author of The Motherline

About the Author

Lucille Lang Day has published creative nonfiction in The Hudson Review, the Istanbul Literary Review, Passages North, the River Oak Review, the Willow Review, and many other journals. She is the recipient of the Willow Review Award in Creative Nonfiction and a Notable Essay citation in Best American Essays. She is also the author of a children's book, Chain Letter, and eight poetry collections and chapbooks, including The Curvature of Blue, Infinities, and The Book of Answers. Her first poetry collection, Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope, received the Joseph Henry Jackson Award. She received an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in creative writing at San Francisco State University, and then an M.A. in zoology and a Ph.D. in science and mathematics education at the University of California, Berkeley. The founder and director of a small press, Scarlet Tanager Books, she also served for seventeen years as the director of the Hall of Health, an interactive children's museum in Berkeley.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Heyday (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597141984
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597141987
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,425,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert J. Seidman on September 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is quite a read. The reader twins this tough and revealing self-chosen experience. I liked Lucille Day's guts and outspokenness, feared for her safety, worried about her less than informed choices, was delighted by her accomplishments and a sense of the young woman becoming herself. It's amazing how much of our lives are dictated to us by society-- its preoccupations, its expectations, its invasive language. Do any of you know the Nausicaa chapter (#13) in "Ulysses?" Gerty McDowell jives herself with a hodgepodge of sentimental literature, ad copy and religious feeling. It's an emotional welter, a tour-de-force cascade of feeling from a confused young female person. In "Married at Fourteen" Lucy Day conveys her struggles with great intensity but little sentimentality. Good. I loved the ending-- Her relationship with the writer Richard Levine and his affection and love for Lucy. The closing chapter offers both poetry and candor about the ups and downs of even a fine relationship.

Robert J. Seidman, author of the forthcoming "Moments Captured," Overlook Press, Nov. 2012
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Reading Lucille Lang Day's memoir, Married at Fourteen, was a journey into my own youth--a coming of age in the San Francisco Bay Area during the turbulent decades of the 60s & 70s. Day writes with convincing truth of her rebellion as a young teen in the early 60s and reveals her emotional conflicts, her willingness to break the rules and she lets us watch her do it. Her commitment to honesty is at the heart of this fascinating book, drawing us in to believe in her and understand.

Yet the intensely personal story that Day tells is set against a backdrop of chaotic social change and rebellion. This breakdown of convention was no doubt a catalyst for some of her life choices that pushed the boundaries for young women.

I found myself walking in Day's shoes at times, being young at the same time and place. When that occurred, I felt my own "wildness" validated through her calm exposition. Some of my random shared experiences were: riding on a Harley with a biker in the Oakland hill climbs and getting a scar on my leg from the exhaust pipe, yet loving the exhilaration while barely avoiding a brush with danger from the Hell's Angels; participating in student protests at UC-Berkeley and observing the routine brick throwing; driving to Minden, Nevada, to be married by the Justice of the Peace to my third husband; dealing with stalking and domestic violence; and ultimately finding my own voice as a storyteller.

Through Day's eyes, I could reclaim my past as she unflinchingly chronicles hers. When she writes of the difficult consequences of her flawed decisions, I could identify with my own failed marriages, untenable relationships, and mistakes in judgment.

I am grateful for this book of Days! In reading her affirming memoir, I've come to know an authentic woman of our shared era and have learned to accept my own unconventional life of trial and error as worthwhile--certainly worth a good story!
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The title pretty much sets us up for the youthful recklessness and impetuousness to come, and it does come. The memoir unfolds as a most compelling story of a bright, beautiful girl who seeks love and adventure, which to her means flaunting convention, marriage and babies. So she starts seriously looking for a husband at the age of twelve. She is so willful and so fiercely independent, she actually gets what she wants by fourteen and becomes a teenage mom and dropout.

Photographs strategically placed throughout the memoir show a movie-star-lovely Lucille posing with dangerously handsome oh-so-bad boys. We clearly see what she saw. This is the story she begins with, unfolding in an upbeat, sometimes humorous, sometimes bittersweet manner, but always with a girlish sweetness spiking her brutal honesty.

It is also the story that flaunts conventional thinking that cautions against any good coming out of such an unconventional start. We learn that Lucille does, in fact, return to school to achieve high accreditation in arts and sciences and does, in fact, find true love with a gifted writer.

What I especially liked about this absorbing memoir was the transformation of Lucille's almost obsessive rebellion against her mother. As the author matures, she understands and accepts the fact that her mother loved her in her own way, a bit of a strange way, but nevertheless, it was love. And a most satisfying post-ending is achieved, as she too shares her experiences with her own daughters' contrariness.

I was amazed at her recollection of minor details of those times, of what songs were popular, what color lipsticks worn, the descriptions of the boys and girls and what they wore, ate, smoked. . then I realized, ah hah, Lucille Lang Day admits to having an extraordinary ability to memorize (a photographic memory?) and this is to the benefit of memoir writing at its most entertaining.

~~Eileen Malone~~
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Antoinette Constable's Review:

A true story, by Lucille Lang Day

The first line of this memoir, " I own a switch blade,' sets the tone for most a of this book.
Truant and associating with the worse elements in and around school, Lucille Lang finds herself in Juvenile Hall, unable to forgive her mother's "yelling, spanking and lies." Relentlessly, the author tells us almost more than we care to know- though we can't put the book down- about her destructive behavior, in which we easily discern more than flashes of intelligence.
What would have happened, we wonder, had this willful girl been understood and helped by her parents? Her father, who believed in her intelligence, took almost no part in her upbringing. His influence was insufficient for his daughter to grow up with an ordinary dose of teenage angst and rebelliousness.

It's both refreshing and surprising to find out that, naively- but who's not naive at twelve?--Lucille believes that marriage and motherhood are the keys to the freedom which adults possess, even though she knows that her parents relationship is not good. She's a willful, directionless girl who buys into the fairy-tales message that the fair prince will come and rescue her, after which they both will live happily ever after. Just the ticket for a young girl who urgently yearns to leave childhood behind. She finds herself, a teenager, the mother of two little girls

When her male relationships or marriages don't work, she concludes that she'd picked the wrong candidate.
Read more ›
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