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On Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m., Lucille Lang Day will read from her new book, “Married at Fourteen: A True Story,” (Heyday 2012) at The Avid Reader, Sacramento. Poet, author, recipient of several awards, including the Joseph Henry Jackson Award for her first book of poetry, Lang Day also holds degrees in English, creative writing, zoology and science and mathematics education. Her work has been widely published, most recently in “Tule Review,” a publication of the Sacramento Poetry Center. Joining her will be Sacramento poet and artist, Susan Kelly-DeWitt.
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“Married at Fourteen: A True Story” by Lucille Lang Day
2012, 333 pp., $16.95
Local interest, memoir, poetry
Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of memoir. Now let me say that this is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time, memoir or otherwise. Being a fan of the first line, I was engaged from the start. “I own a switchblade knife. It has a black plastic handle with two brass buttons.” And I remained with the book until the end, which, by the way, is a poem.
Not only did I remain with the book until the end, I brought the book with me to appointments, to class, on the bus, to the store. A bit large for my pocket, but it fit snugly under my arm. It's smart, serious, witty and complex. Photos are woven throughout the text, adding another layer of complexity to the many stories contained within.
While the title might conjure the idea that we are to embark on a journey of woe, this is certainly not the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is the story of one woman’s determination during a time when there were different expectations of women. It is the story of love, loss and much joy. And a lot of escapades along the way.
You might cry, and I dare you not to laugh. If you’re like me, you’ll encourage her when she decides to go to college. And you'll get angry when obstacles arise, and you'll cheer the way she maneuvers around each potential block. You might remember Chicken Delight, having to dial the operator in case of emergency (she reminds us that 911 had not yet been invented) and motorcycle gangs. Then again, you might not.
Within each finely crafted page, you’ll discover how one young woman went from searching for a husband at the tender age of twelve to spending time with bikers, and you’ll discover how she went from high school dropout to holding several advanced degrees, including a Ph.D. in science and mathematics education.
Meet the many men who entered and left her life. There was Mark whose response to her telling him she’d reenrolled at the Oakland Adult Day School was “‘I feel betrayed. Before we got married, you said you wouldn’t go back.’” Instead of taking care of their daughter, he’d call her a bad mother and bad wife. When she told him she wanted to be a scientist, he said, “‘That’s ridiculous! Women aren’t scientists.’” Fortunately, she paid him no attention.
There's Gil. John. And there's Bob who took her to the biker party, even though he didn't think it was a good idea. And there's Birdman who asked her to be his woman, to be an Angelette. And there's the way she handled Birdman when he showed up at her house. We can't forget Pierre, the tour guide.
This is not a simple story, nor is it a singular story. While the narrator's quest for a husband drives the story forward, it is her determination to finish her education and her desire to write that parallel that quest. The narrator’s voice is strong and sure, and it is clear that Lang Day respects her audience, and as a reader, I respect her.
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The Avid Reader is located at 1600 Broadway, Sacramento, and the event is free and open to the public.