By Hannah Abbate
Thursday night in Cornerstone, Sterling College hosted award-winning poet Janine Joseph. While on campus, Joseph read from multiple sections of her work and signed copies of her book “Driving without a License,” which was influenced by her life experiences growing up.
Born in the Philippines, Joseph moved to California with a tourist visa in 1991. It was not until Joseph was applying for college in high school that she learned she was an undocumented immigrant. This was an obstacle in Joseph’s path, but she did not let this stop her. She did attend college. Joseph started at Riverside Community College in Riverside California in 2003. She transferred shortly after to University of California, Riverside, then completed a graduate program in writing in New York and Houston.
In 2008, Joseph returned home for Christmas. She was about three-fourths of the way through writing her book, at the time. She was sitting on the passenger side of a car with her father when they were rear-ended by a driver who had been going anywhere from 50-70 miles per hour. The driver had been texting and did not see the light had turned red. Joseph suffered a severe concussion with lasting effects, including memory loss.
While recovering, she would ask her family, “Was I in an accident? Was I in an accident?” Eventually, they gave her a journal to keep track of the questions and answers she had already asked. Joseph felt this help to restart her love for writing after the accident.
Earlier this year, Joseph received an email from Aaron Brown, Assistant Professor of Writing and Editing, a published novelist who teaches on the campus, saying, “I’m in the middle of reading your book right now and id really like to bring you up to Sterling, Kansas to read your work,” recounted Joseph. She had just moved to Oklahoma at the time. “Here, out of the blue, someone who didn’t know me just emailed me said, like, ‘Hey, I’m reading your book,’ which is always a wonderful thing to say to a writer, especially to a poet. To hear that someone in the middle of Kansas is reading your book, and is so excited about reading your book that they send this invitation.”
Today, along with being a successful poet, Joseph teaches at Oklahoma State University. Her book “Driving Without a License” is also for sale in the Sterling College bookstore while copies last.