Driving Without a License

Janine Joseph. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-938584-18-3
An undocumented Filipina-American discovers present-day California, teen culture, car culture, prejudice, love, blue-collar and white-collar work, and marriage in Joseph’s absorbing, detailed, and timely debut. Joseph’s governing figure, the automobile, connects her straightforward narratives to other, more elaborate, poetic goals. She vividly renders the tactics and the fears of immigrant families who live in fear of the law (“I hear they raid when you’re naked/ in bed Packed like a sardine”) and juxtaposes kids trying not to get deported with others trying to purchase alcohol: “I held up my wallet// with its empty slot. See./ What good is it then, they said// to be legal?” Joseph animates scenes from the Phillipines and older relatives’ tropical memories, though her dynamism emerges most in poems about cars, dating, road trips, and car repair. A sonnet crown about a marriage juxtaposes traditional celebration with the new couple’s practical difficulties: “Choosing to know nothing about the heart/ means sorting our mail and leaving.” 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: “my child// will be called an anchor/ with hands at its throat.” (May)
Reviewed on: 04/18/2016
Release date: 05/01/2016
Open Ebook - 100 pages - 978-1-938584-38-1
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