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ISBN: 978-1-73233-405-2
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Categories Chapbooks, Nomadic, Poetry

How It Happens

Publication Date: September 2018


In June of 2023, Black Lawrence Press welcomed numerous existing and forthcoming Nomadic Press titles to our catalogue. How It Happens was originally published by Nomadic.

How It Happens explores the world with eyes wide open and a willingness to engage “the light and dark of it all” while inviting the reader to imagine life as a black woman in today’s America. Young’s debut collection unfolds in its own sweet time—from intimate portraits to mystical incantations, while examining the multifaceted and resilient lyric “I” at the center of life’s contradictory forces—birth and death, desire and anger, memory and loss, resistance and acceptance.


In How It Happens, Joyce E. Young transforms her own life and observations of her community into a poetry of wit, insight, irony, humor and witness. The voice is open hearted but gritty, at times loving but not without its bite: (from “Delilah”: “Prayer is only/for the wicked./So I make sure,/ I do it often”). Young’s poetry recognizes its ancestors but sings with a melody all her own. This is a powerful and absorbing collection, one readers will cherish.
David Mura, author of The Last Incantations

Beautiful collection of poetry, Poems that hit me straight, without artifice. Songs that revive me not unlike an embrace or a kiss or a hot meal from home. Often I felt like standing up and throwing my glass out of emotion, a kind of Balkan/Greek thing.
Robert Pesich, editor & publisher, Swan Scythe Press and author of Model Organism

“I have been broken and I am still here.” This is How it Happens: Joyce E. Young’s first book of poems resonates with the legacy of ancestors. Of sista-poets, Sonia Sanchez, Ruth Forman, Maya Angelou. Poems like small gems that sparkle I am here. Poem-stories spied by a child’s eye from stoops and streets. Poems forged with longing and hope. Poems that cry out with intimacy. Poems that ache with what it means to be woman, to be black. To survive, to grow wise. To be patient, to listen. To love, to fight back. With sly wit and wisdom, a voice touched by angel’s wings and the scent of jasmine flowers, these poems reclaim, rename, and make space for black women power.
Jackie Graves, writer, English Department Faculty, Laney College

“Joyce Young’s poems are solid, clear and provide vivid portraits of people, slices of life during the 70s/80s eras, explore forays into love and sex, and speak eloquently about how society and patriarchy silence women.”
Opal Palmer Adisa, author of 4-Headed Woman

About the Author

© Vanessa Sezini

Joyce Young

Joyce Young is the author of the poetry chapbook, How it Happens, Nomadic Press/Black Lawrence Press 2018, which was nominated for a California Book Award. Some poems from the collection were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her writing has appeared in West Trestle Review, The Bloom, The San Francisco Public Library Poem of the Day, Essential Truths: The Bay Area in Color, Smith Alumnae Quarterly, and elsewhere. In her poems and essays she focuses on what lies beneath the surface of the interactions we have with one another. She is currently at work on a memoir about family and caregiving. Joyce  has taught creative writing at museums, libraries, universities, and community arts organizations, such as The Oakland Museum of CA (OMCA), The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, MOCHA: The Museum of Children’s Art, California Poets in the Schools, and The Sonoma County Museum. Joyce has taught writing workshops for members of the Museum Educators Roundtable and conducted writing workshops for artists on developing artist statements for a permanent exhibition in the History Galleries at OMCA. Joyce currently teaches English and facilitates Books & Bites, a virtual student book club at Pacific Preparatory School. Joyce taught Composition, Research Writing, Philosophy, and Sociology at John F. Kennedy University (JFKU) for 6 years. In addition,  she served as a Writing Specialist in the JFKU Writing Center for 14 years. She taught English in the Mills College Upward Bound program for 3 years and served as a writing coach for students working on college and scholarship application essays. Joyce  is an alumna of Community of Writers, Bay Area Writers Workshop, and VONA. She has been awarded writing fellowships at Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and received grants from the California Arts Council, the Writers on Site Program of Poets & Writers, Inc., and Writing the Other. Joyce holds a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies from John F. Kennedy University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Smith College. In her spare time she practices Yoga and T’ai Chi, walks distances, hikes, and points her camera toward anything or anyone that interests her, a hobby that she has enjoyed for several decades. She lives and writes in Berkeley, CA.

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