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Married at Fourteen by Lucille Lang Day

Married at Fourteen by Lucille Lang Day is a memoir about a young girl who wants to grow up fast in the late 1960s, that she seriously starts looking for a husband at age 12.  She’s completely unhappy with her family life, particularly her mother, and with school.  The story spends a great deal of time in the first section examining the numerous boys that Day dated and tried to have sex with, but it also spends a lot of time on her frame of mind for this behavior.  She believes that marriage will set her free from the confines of her own family, allowing her not only to become a mother, but also make her own decisions.  In addition to love and finding a way out of the home, Day is a typical teen in her need to break out of conformity and make her mark, which in her case meant breaking up the monotonous school uniform with her own style and obtaining a switchblade to make her feel more adult-like.

“Nevertheless, I kept mine, which was tucked safely behind my math and history books in my locker.  I wasn’t about to hand it over to any cop.  It was a symbol of who I was.  It meant I didn’t play by the rules; it meant I made up my own rules.  It meant I was a rebel.  It meant I was bad.”  (Page 4 ARC)

When Day finally marries, she finds it is not all romance and roses, but she has to think about more than herself now that she has a daughter, Liana.  In a way the first portion of the book is a good illustration of why teens need observant parents in their lives — to teach them what is right and what is wrong, but also to guide them down the best path.  Day seems to have learned some lessons in love the hard way.  She also learned some lessons about motherhood and how far she was willing to go for money.

Part one looks back at Day’s teenage years, while the second portion of the memoir is a series of self-contained stories from her life as an adult, struggling to gain a college education after her struggle for a high school diploma as well as her struggle to keep a job and be treated fairly by her employers.  Married at Fourteen by Lucille Lang Day is an engaging look at what it was like for a young woman with big dreams of equality to live in the 1960s.  Day’s memoir is a stark look at family life, alcoholism, rebellion among teens, and so much more.  There is a cultural shift, but also an evolution within Day as she takes on her self-imposed struggles in love and motherhood.

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.

This is my 72nd book for the New Authors Reading Challenge in 2012.

  • Now this whole story pulls me right in! I couldn’t imagine being married that young!

  • I could see this being interesting because, as much as you might want to escape your home life, getting married so young is not going to be the answer I think!
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  • I found the latter half of the book more interesting than the first. I think all of the talk about boyfriends and finding a husband was a little much in the first part.

  • Sounds very sad… but interesting.
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  • Meg

    Wow — sounds very compelling and different . . . and I’m sure emotional, too. Married at fourteen . . . that is definitely startling.
    Meg´s last blog post ..The zen and balance of yarn

  • Natalie

    I came from a single parent torn home and I hated it. My dad was in prison and I had to grow up quick. I had the brain of a 13 year old but the mind of a 20 year old. It so crazy to think back now being 30 and single and think that when I was 13 I wanted to get pregnant and start my OWN family, to get away from the one I already had. For some people who haven’t been through this type up upbringing it might seem far fetched, but believe me, when you come from an abusive & neglectful home you just want a family that you see everyone else having, even if it means starting your own. You don’t think about the consequences, you just think of the possibility of someone loving you as much as you need them to.

    • Natalie, thanks for sharing this. You’ve captured exactly how it felt. My family wasn’t dysfunctional in the same way as yours, but my mother was verbally abusive, my father was a compulsive gambler who went out to play poker every night, my aunts and uncles were horribly racist, and I saw my only first cousin being physically abused (society tolerated this in the 50s and 60s). I wanted desperately to get away from these people and start my own family, and I had no idea that by getting married at 14 and having a baby, I would find myself in a worse rut. To any teen in a painful, unhappy family situation today, I would say, “Stick it out, focus on getting into college, and try to find a counselor or other trusted adult with whom you can discuss your troubles.”

  • I don’t think this is my kind of book, but I am curious whether her home life at 12 really was bad enough to contemplate something as crazy as marriage at that age or whether she was going through that pre-teen/teen drama queen stage and just took it way too far.

  • Most teens are unhappy with their families at times but to get married at 14 to get away from them is just crazy. I’m with Jill – I can’t imagine. I find the thought disturbing.
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  • wow, I just cannot imagine!