Paperback Price: 15.95
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-938584-18-3


Selected Poem

Unsolved Mysteries

A film of mosquito wings in the standing pool water. On the deck,
the unplanted saguaro wrapped in brown paper.

In a box addressed to me: blouses folded like origami and anklets
beaded with black pearls, jade stones, and cobalt. Fine bracelet wire,
coiled. Licorice, kojic acid, and placenta creams to apply after skin-
bleaching toners.

A necklace shaped like a boomerang.

The portrait of my mother holding her beauty queen scepter left a
nail in the entertaining room wall.

Driving Without a License


Finalist for the 2016 Julie Suk 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

“…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

“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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  1. Introducing Janine Joseph, a talented poet who writes of being undocumented – TheTampaPlug - May 5, 2016

    […] events shaped her first book of poems, “Driving Without a License” (Alice James Books: 100 pp., $15.95 paper). The young poet discovered that she was […]

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