OAKLAND -- Lucille Lang Day has traveled a long eventful road since getting married at 14 and becoming a teenage mother one year later, pulling her life together and going on to earn college degrees. In fact, using the phrase "you've come a long way, baby" would not be far off the mark.
Now Day has put pen to her life experiences by writing "Married at 14: A True Story," and her memoir was a finalist in the Northern California Book Award in Creative Nonfiction.
The Grand Lake resident has many accomplishments to her credit, including advanced degrees in English and creative writing from San Francisco State University, and zoology and science-mathematics education from UC Berkeley.
She served as director at Berkeley's Hall of Health for 17 years, founded Scarlet Tanager Books and is a published author in several formats.
How Day came to turn her life around is a major focus in "Married at 14," whose three themes are the parent-child relationship, teen rebellion and the quest for romantic life. In the first part, Day covers the period from 12 to 19 when she was a juvenile delinquent while the second part uses stories told from an adult point of view to focus on important people and events in her life.
"In the first part, I tried to recapture and reconstruct my point of view from 12 to 19 and how I gradually matured because I wanted to show how a troubled teen thinks," Day said. "All of the things that happen in the second part reflect back."
The memoir takes place in Piedmont, where the author grew up in the 1950s, and around Oakland and Berkeley, where she lived during various periods of her life. Day describes taking her father's car at 13 to drive to Los Angeles with a boy. Her need to get away from an unhappy home and school life convinced her parents to give consent to her marriage at 14.
"My goal was to find a husband because I wanted to get away from my mother and get out of going to school, where I was unhappy," Day said.
Not surprisingly, teenage married life was not a success, and Day realized her life was going nowhere, unable to get a job and with a husband who was unable to find steady work.
"I had to lie about my amount of education to get a job as a phone girl at Chicken Delight and I decided I needed a more interesting job," she said. "It was experiences like that that made me want to go back to school."
Not only did Day complete high school in record time but she was also accepted to attend UC Berkeley.
The fact that she was able to turn her life around motivated her to write the book, as a way to upend stereotypes about juvenile delinquents and teen mothers and offer inspiration that lives can change. As a survivor of a number of bad relationships, Day also wants the book to serve as a message to other women.
"Women have told me my story is inspiring to them," Day said. "It shows that women can let go of bad relationships and bad marriages."
No stranger to literary recognition, Day is honored that her book was one of five nominated for the Northern California Book Award, seeing it as recognition of her writing and giving her an opportunity to reach a wider audience. Although her book was not selected for the award, Day feels good about being a finalist.
As for a wider audience, Day believes the memoir should be read by parents, teachers and young people, hoping that the truth behind her life will serve as fodder for others.
"While I hope that people whose lives have been touched by things like teen parenthood, juvenile delinquency and abusive marriages will find my book inspiring, I also hope that others will be intrigued by the story and read it to find out about a life that might be very different from their own," Day said.