Driving without a License

Driving without a License


Janine Joseph

2018 da Vinci Eye Award Winner
2018 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist
Honorable Mention for The New England Poetry Club’s 2018 Sheila Margaret Motton Poetry Book Prize    
2014 Kundiman Poetry Prize Winner
Library Journal Top Poetry Pick for Spring 2016
Finalist for the 2016 Julie Suk Award
A 2016 Pleiades Magazine Best Book of the Year
A 2016 Library Journal Spring Best Poetry Picks Book
Finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award

“Through her variety of lines, of old and new forms, and of voices adopted and inhabited, Joseph, herself Filipina-American, does justice to the raw emotions around immigration with verve.”
Publishers Weekly

May 2016

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Janine Joseph was born and raised in the Philippines and Southern California. She is the author of Driving without a License, winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize and 2018 da Vinci Eye award, finalist for the 2017 Oklahoma Book Award, and named an Honorable Mention for the 2018 Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize from the New England Poetry Club. Her writing has appeared in The AtlanticWorld Literature Today, The Poem’s Country: Place & Poetic Practice, The Kenyon Review, Best New Poets, Best American Experimental WritingZócalo Public SquareVIDA: Women in Literary Arts, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, and elsewhere. A librettist, her commissioned work for the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco include What Wings They Were: The Case of Emeline“On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel, and From My Mother's Mother. Additionally, her poems have been set to music by acclaimed composers Melissa Dunphy, for the PhilHarmonia and Resonance Ensemble’s “American DREAMers: Stories of Immigration” concerts, and Reinaldo Moya, for the Schubert Club’s “DREAM Song” concert. Janine is an organizer for Undocupoets and serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Poets & Writers in Tulsa. She lives in Stillwater, where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. www.janinejoseph.com

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Additional Praise:

“…The book itself is no chore: It stands far apart from most first books, and from most books of autobiographical or narrative poetry, for the unpredictable vigor in its rhythmically irregular lines, especially in its depictions of youthful adventures.”
The Los Angeles Times

Driving without a License is political and virtuosic while maintaining a witty and down-to-earth voice, and the finely wrought tension between these modes creates a uniquely energized poetry.”
Kenyon Review

“The book includes text from naturalization forms and newspaper articles about immigration, plays with multiple forms and lays claim to each. While the speaker is hiding in plain sight, the book is a ‘coming out’ that doesn’t shy away from its politics.”
Matthew Salesses, VICE

“Propelled by the topic of immigration and filled with heartbreaking relevance, the book still manages to treat the subject with a unique sense of humor that feels wholly appropriate. Courage and a side-glancing wit unite, making Joseph’s collection a necessity.”
Steve Fellner, Rain Taxi

“Driving without a License is a collection about belonging and un-belonging, about growing up in a culture that says you’re welcome here (generally), yet enables governmental structures designed to alienate and remove you.”
E. CE Miller, Bustle Magazine

“Though the political suffuses these poems, they are also personal, funny, irreverent and playful…These are inviting, personable poems with sharp points buried in each. A truly entertaining and enlightening first collection.”
D. A. Powell, Goodreads

“When I first heard [Joseph’s] poems two years ago, I knew how vital they were to the conversations about who can claim American identity. Since then, the scapegoating and outright vitriol directed toward immigrants has only grown, making her debut collection even more essential on anyone’s American poetry shelf.”
Swati Khurana, The Rumpus

“One has come to expect quality from Alice James Books. The venerable New England cooperative continues to publish the best new female voices while expanding their catalogue in recent years to include men and even more international poets. That expectation of quality has been met and exceeded with Janine Joseph’s Driving without a License, which sluices down hot asphalt, gathering steam in the low air. At times steamy but never foggy (the way some poems repeat the worst excesses of the Imagistes), these poems elucidate rather than obscure.”
Josh Brewer, The Southeast Review

“We’ve never read a book like Janine Joseph’s Driving Without a License. By “We” I mean all of us. With its ferocious formal range and deep compassion Joseph shows us the world we all live in but often choose to ignore. Here are the lives of mothers and fathers, teenagers and grandparents, all living under the threat of deportation. Here are people making a new home while holding onto the dignity and beauty of the place that they were once from. Joseph is that rare poet who makes a poem that devastates a reader while being entirely free from judgment. These are political poems because simply being alive in the United States is a political act. These are narrative poems because everyone has a story. At the heart of each poem is the lyric, that moment in which there is no separation between ourselves and the world Joseph lets bloom. This makes us citizens of these poems, which is a testament to Joseph’s staggering grace.”
Gabrielle Calvocoressi

“These poems create a disquieting narrative of American immigration, one in which an undocumented young woman from the Philippines hides in plain sight among the pizza places and schoolyards of Southern California, surrounded by opportunity, risk and threat. Joseph’s sensibility is as psychological as it is political, reminding us that concealment is more than a physical act; it is also a profoundly disruptive emotional and psychological position, one that informs not just the speaker’s sense of the world, but her sense of her self. Brilliantly crafted and intimate, Driving Without a License complicates the narrative of American immigration, creating from it a poetry of beauty and empathy.”
Kevin Prufer

“Janine Joseph writes with an open and easy intimacy. The language here is at once disruptive and familiar, political and sensual, and tinged by the melancholy of loss and the discomforting radiance of redemption. A strong debut.”
Chris Abani

“Joseph blends everyday anxieties with deeper ones, avoiding outright reportage for smarter inflection. The tensions of visiting the immigration lawyer’s office, for instance, are seen in the mad drive away. Verdict: A gifted writer’s view on an all-American issue.”
Library Journal

Driving Without a License documents the search for what is always hiding right in front of us: a future worth looking forward to.”
American Microreviews & Interviews

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More by Janine Joseph:

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