Lucille Lang Day is the author of a memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story (Heyday, 2012), which received a PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award and was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award in Creative Nonfiction. She first married at age 14, gave birth to a daughter at 15, divorced her husband at 16, married him again at 17, and left him again at 18 because he didn’t want her to go back to school. Married at Fourteen tells this story and also recounts many events from Day’s adult life. After finishing high school in three semesters and two summer sessions, she went on to earn her BA in biological sciences, MA in zoology, and PhD in science/mathematics education at the University of California at Berkeley, and her MA in English and MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University. With Kurt Schweigman, Day co-edited Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California (Scarlet Tanager, 2016), the first anthology to bring the work of poets from California tribes together with that of poets from the Native American diaspora in California. She is also the author of ten poetry collections and chapbooks published by various small presses, most recently Becoming an Ancestor (Cervená Barva, 2015) and Dreaming of Sunflowers: Museum Poems (Blue Light, 2015), which received the 2014 Blue Light Poetry Prize. Her first poetry collection, Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope (Berkeley Poets Workshop and Press, 1982), was selected by Robert Pinsky, David Littlejohn, and Michael Rubin for the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in Literature. Day’s work also includes two children’s books, Chain Letter (Heyday, 2005) and The Rainbow Zoo (Scarlet Tanager, to be released fall 2016). Her poems, essays, and short stories have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies and have received nine Pushcart Prize nominations, among many other honors. The founder and director of a small press, Scarlet Tanager Books, Day also worked as a science writer and science educator for many years. She is of Wampanoag, British, and Swiss/German descent. For more information, see http://lucillelangday.com and www.scarlettanager.com.
“The uncompromisingly frank account of a gifted woman's unlikely journey from teenage mother and juvenile delinquent to award-winning writer and scholar.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A sprawling poetry anthology explores California’s ecology.
A plethora of poets honors the Golden State and its unique ecosystem in this book, organized by editors Day (The Rainbow Zoo, 2016, etc.) and Nolan (Ruby Mountain, 2016, etc.) around topography. In primarily free-verse style, poets examine the beauty of the California landscape as well as the foreboding changes occurring there. The first section, “Coast and Ocean,” introduces the diversity of marine life, from whales and dolphins to sea lions and seals. Judith McCombs’ “Refugio Beach, California, 1950” and Kay Morgan’s “Before the Oil Spill” recall a more virginal era in West Coast ecology. In the “Coastal Redwoods” section, authors expound on forestry; Marcia Falk admires the trees’ “silent flesh” while their aroma awakens Cynthia Leslie-Bole “like a slap from a Zen master.” Dana Gioia leads readers into “a landscape made of obstacles” in the “Hills and Canyons” section, in which CB Follett mourns the loss of elk, salmon, and bears in “Once Here.” In “Fields and Meadows,” Kim Roberts catalogs invasive weeds while Kevin Durkin pays homage to his feathered friends. Scorpions skitter and coyotes prowl in the “Desert” section. The “Rivers, Lakes, and Lagoons” section fixates on the lack of water, as when T.m. Lawson ponders the disappearance of a Santa Monica watering hole in “droughtfall.” Water is considered a gift in the “Sierra Nevada and Cascades” section, in which Karen Greenbaum-Maya vividly recalls a “blue so pure it lit me up / as though I’d gulped a star.” The book ends with “Cities, Towns, and Roads,” a timely meditation on the disastrous effects of industrialization and climate change. The poets in this appealing collection are pure professionals. Every missive is a sensory-rich experience. Evocative images like Susan Kelly-DeWitt’s willow trees that “hung their heads / like sad old men” are abundant. The major fault of this anthology is its size; at nearly 400 pages, it is a downpour of poetry that will likely leave readers feeling more waterlogged than refreshed. The collection would have benefited from further pruning.
A captivating and visceral portrait of the California landscape by a talented cast of poets.
Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2018
Page count: 462pp
Publisher: Scarlet Tanager Books
Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018
Two children go to a zoo where they meet a wide assortment of unusually colored animals in this rhyming, illustrated book for young children.
Autumn and Devlin, a pair of blonde siblings, decide one day to visit the Rainbow Zoo. The animals there have unconventional hues and sometimes odd patterns, such as a pink polka-dot kangaroo. The brother and sister wander around pointing out what they see: “Devlin said, ‘Look! The lion is blue!’ / And the saffron cow said, ‘Moo, moo, moo!’ ” Other animals include a lime polar bear and an orange elephant. It’s not just the animals that are unusually colored; a yellow gorilla tries to escape up a turquoise tree, for example, and the hot dogs from the snack stand are a multicolored plaid. Color words (even “plaid”) are depicted in their appropriate shades, helping to highlight the concepts. After a long, fun day at the zoo, where the children also enjoy the singing of indigo frogs and the snorting of lavender hogs, Devlin and Autumn return home, planning to “come back again / To see the scarlet giraffes in their pen!” Day (editor: Red Indian Road West, 2016, etc.) shows that she has a good ear for language in her latest children’s book. The rhymes aren’t especially unexpected (“red”/“bed”/“said”/“fed,” for example), but Day’s lines scan well and have a nice bounce. Orosco’s pleasant illustrations are also a plus, nicely capturing the book’s feel while adding to its humor, as in her depiction of an angry, frowny-faced, and adorably fat fuchsia bumblebee. Children often enjoy nonsense and silliness, so the topsy-turvy nature of the colors will give them much to giggle over. Also, although many other kids’ books teach basic colors, this one gives young readers a chance to become familiar with more exotic hues, such as tangerine and fuchsia. One flaw for some families may be that the book depicts no other people besides the white siblings, giving children of color, ironically enough, no chance to see themselves represented.
An excellent candidate for reading aloud, helped out by attractive, textured illustrations.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2016
Page count: 28pp
Publisher: Scarlet Tanager Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2016
An anthology offers poems by Native Americans with ties to California.
California is home to the largest Native American population in the U.S., encompassing more than 100 indigenous tribes as well as members of groups from other states. It has also been home, at one time or another, to many of the country’s indispensable Native American poets. This anthology, edited by Schweigman (Commods, 2000) and Day (Becoming an Ancestor, 2015, etc.), begins with the former’s poem “Ishi’s Hiding Place.” It ruminates on the final years of Ishi, last of the Yahi, who, when he appeared near Oroville, California, in 1911, was hailed as the “last ‘wild’ Indian” and studied by anthropologists at Berkeley. The poem poignantly establishes California as a place of great meaning in the Native American consciousness: one of the final lands of native peoples absorbed into the United States and a de facto gathering site of wayward Native Americans from other places, pushed west over the course of the 20th century by government actions, economic need, or wanderlust. Jennifer Elsie Foerster captures this idea of migration in “California,” one of the collection’s finest pieces: “Dragging a rack of whale ribs / I carried the relics in my mouth. / Met a woman named California, / could not pull her voice out.” Wendy Rose remembers a transplanted community in “To the Hopi in Richmond”: “My people in boxcars, / my people, my pain, / united by the window steam / of lamb stew cooking / and the metal of your walls.” Other poems are more intimate, examining memory or family history. In “Why I Hate Raisins,” Natalie Diaz remembers the stigma of government-provided food. In “Drift,” Janice Gould considers the dynamic geography of clouds shifting overhead. The anthology includes work by many accomplished poets like Deborah A. Miranda, Carolyn Dunn, J.P. Dancing Bear, Indira Allegra, Hershman John, Sylvia Ross, and Jewelle Gomez as well as poets that many readers will be encountering for the first time. Not all of the writers are current residents of California, and not all of the poems deal with the state directly, but in aggregate they manage to communicate a vision of Native American poetry at the western edge of American expansion.
A diverse and illuminating volume of Native American poetry that explores Western migration.
Pub Date: April 4, 2016
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: Scarlet Tanager Books
Review Posted Online: June 7, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016
A new poetry collection from Day (co-editor: Red Indian Road West, 2016, etc.) blends historical imagining with powerful lyrics from the present.
Dedicated to the poet’s parents, the opening poem, “Journeys,” tells of the Mayflower ancestor who survived being swept overboard to eventually father one strand of her DNA: “In my double helices he feasts / with Wampanoags on venison, / roast goose, wild turkey, pumpkins.” This man unites with the People of the First Light far back in the poet’s family tree; musings on her Native American lineage recur in the poems. “In my round and spindly cells where the past softly breathes,” she writes, she always wanted to meet Native Americans. In these pages, she does encounter them, and several Pilgrims, too. Elizabeth Tilley Howland (1607-1687), for example, comes to life in the poem dedicated to her. As a 13-year-old, she crossed from England to Plymouth—to bear 10 children, survive her husband, then decide who will get her things when she dies: “Who will read my great Bible / and small one? Who / will sleep in my feather bed, // feed my sheep, wear / my linen and woolen clothes, / use my pans to bake their bread?” Far more poignant than any textbook lesson, these lives swell. The present-day poems remind readers to mark what they are given. Of one friend, the speaker asks an arresting question: “When did you stop being / a young woman with long honey-colored hair?” Even deeper questions underlie a suite of poems for Liana, the poet’s daughter, as she is treated for cancer and, after, as she is mourned. The poem “Live!” is almost unbearable—for the surge of desire and simultaneous acquiescence to fate: “And if you can’t live any longer / in your beautiful body… / then live in the sighs and easy / smiles of your children, / the muscular rooms of // our hearts.”
To become an ancestor requires knowledge of those who came before and concern for those who will follow; these poems travel that ground skillfully.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015
Page count: 118pp
Publisher: Cervená Barva Press
Review Posted Online: June 7, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016
The uncompromisingly frank account of a gifted woman's unlikely journey from teenage mother and juvenile delinquent to award-winning writer and scholar.
At age 12, Day had just one goal: to gain her freedom by finding a husband. Certain that she "already knew everything [she'd] ever need to know,” she began her search for a mate and dove "headlong into a turbulent adolescence.” By age 14, Day had not only run afoul of the law as a runaway, but she also wed a boy three years her senior. She soon discovered that early marriage imprisoned rather than liberated, and she filed for divorce at 16. Unwilling to depend on her parents, Day went on welfare. It was only after she started looking for work to support herself and her infant daughter that she realized the importance of getting an education. Returning to school "with all the zeal [she'd] once devoted to collecting records and Revlon lipsticks,” she earned a scholarship to Berkeley. Despite academic successes that included admission into a graduate program in zoology, she continued to get involved in disappointing relationships that left her unfulfilled. Desperately wanting to be "done with the confusion in [her] love life," Day married a fellow scientist and poet who seemed "good enough" but who blamed her for his own inadequacies and could not remain faithful to her. She then began a long-term affair with a respected writer who reawakened her ideas of true love but insisted on emotional detachment. Day then focuses on stories about her family and the man who unexpectedly brought her the joy she had been seeking. Despite this loss in narrative cohesion, her remarkable story and its happy ending make for memorable reading.
An inspiring story about paths, and selves, lost and found.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2012
Page count: 336pp
Review Posted Online: July 16, 2012
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012
The U.S. Postal Service warns consumers, “If you mail chain letters, you could be committing a federal crime.” While this offering may not constitute a felony, or even a misdemeanor, it does represent a fairly pointless exercise that’s clearly meant to be fun, but lacks any context that might help kids understand the joke. The text is the chain letter itself, which informs readers that if they send out 10,000 copies within 24 hours of receipt, they “will receive good luck within four days.” Examples of such good luck include a stretch limo and a free elephant. Poor Oakley Funk ignored the letter, was bitten by a rattlesnake in the toilet and died. Pedestrian cartoons accompany the text, depicting the actions and events described but rarely extending it. Neither text nor cartoons attempt to inform readers exactly what a chain letter is, both reaching only for random silliness that might elicit a giggle or two but ultimately denying children any kind of coherent story. (Picture book. 5-8)
Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2005
Page count: 32pp
Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005
PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award
Finalist, Northern California Book Award in Creative Nonfiction
Blue Light Poetry Prize
Joseph Henry Jackson Award in LiteratureReview of Red Indian Road West in San Francisco Book Review, 2016 Article on Red Indian Road West in Native News Online, 2016 Two Villanelles in Women's Voices for Change, 2016 Personal Essay, "Cousin Jan," in Ghost Town, 2015 Short Story, "The Last Slave," in Serving House Journal, 2015 Interview in Words with Writers, 2014 Excerpt from Married at Fourteen in Waccamaw Journal, 2009
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