How It Happens by Joyce E. Young

180909 How It Happens by Joyce Young Front Cover.jpg
180909 How It Happens by Joyce Young Full Cover.jpg
180909 How It Happens by Joyce Young Front Cover.jpg
180909 How It Happens by Joyce Young Full Cover.jpg

How It Happens by Joyce E. Young


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.

Independent bookstores and libraries can order from our distributor, Small Press Distribution, here

Praise for How It Happens:

“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, author of Model Organism, editor and publisher, Swan Scythe Press

“‘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 womanpower.”

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

“In How It Happens, Joyce E. Young’s life rises up to grab her and us in the arms of a seasoned poet whose voice is sure, clear and lovely in its simplicity and depth. Young brings a precision of language, a fluidity of rhythm, and an easiness of metaphor to a book of poetry that is song and parable, memoir and short story, history and faith. Although this is the work of a writer who knows gentleness, love and passion, there is also a searing, slow-burning iron will when she intimates the truths of racial relationships and stereotypes in America and offers strategies for survival and recipes for hope. The scent of jasmine, prism of loneliness, contradictions of love, laughter of children, caprice of ocean waves, and grittiness of the streets all have a place in this slim and potent volume of poetry.”

Devorah Major, 3rd Poet Laureate of San Francisco, poet, and novelist

Publication Details

All of our books are printed locally in Oakland, CA. We strongly believe in supporting local publishers and local printers.

September 2018 • 5 x 7 • 58 pp. • Trade Paper

ISBN: 978-1-7323340-5-2

Cover art by Arthur Johnstone

Interior and cover design by J. K. Fowler

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