I Never Knew How Old I Was

Fiction - Anthology
240 Pages
Reviewed on 01/10/2024
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

David Joseph is a recipient of The Paul Cave Prize for Literature. His writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, LA Times, London Magazine, The Smart Set, Litro, and Rattle. He is the author of two previous collections of fiction, The Old Men Who Row Boats and Other Stories and I Didn’t Know What To Say So I Just Said Thanks. He is a graduate of Hobart College and the University of Southern California’s Graduate Writing Program, where he was a recipient of the Kerr Fellowship and served as editor for the Southern California Anthology. In 2002 he cofounded the nonprofit organization America SCORES LA, and in 2007 he received The John Henry Hobart Fellowship for Ethics and Social Justice. He has taught at Pepperdine University and Harvard University. In 2019 he was awarded a position on the Fulbright Specialist Roster.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

How often have you heard the saying "life is like that"? And the multitude of other sayings that reflect upon age and maturity and how old we are, like “act your age.” But what is our age? And does it matter? Perhaps the short stories in David Joseph’s I Never Knew How Old I Was have a significant point. Age doesn’t matter, does it? And, when you think of it, age is irrelevant. Time and circumstances – physical, emotional, and spiritual – that encompass the basic act of living can make us feel much older than we are. “I felt old. I felt so incredibly old, all this time. I felt old, and I was old. But I never knew. All this time, I never knew how old I was.” Do you know how old you are? There’s a lot to reflect on and remember and time can alter our perception of age, just like age can alter our perception of time.

David Joseph’s book, I Never Knew How Old I Was, is a complex look at age and time through a collection of short stories and memories from a life well lived. The stories are all written in the first-person narrative and read like snapshots of a memoir. Simple events in a simple life, foolish things accomplished, reflective wisdom of confidence, insecurity, intimacy, and emotional interactions all compound into a powerful look at what it means to be alive. The language is simple, written in a storytelling format, as the author shares inner thoughts and provocations. The stories resonate with an inner illumination of agelessness that lacks definition. These stories will make readers deeply reflective of ageism.

Doreen Chombu

I Never Knew How Old I Was is a collection of thought-provoking stories by David Joseph. Each story takes the reader on a journey through the life of a unique character who experiences life-changing events, which teach them about love, family relationships, and the art of living. The book includes stories about a reclusive uncle who does not conform to societal norms, a one-of-a-kind unlikely couple with everlasting love, and a man who travels to New York to grieve and drink his sorrows away. The stories explore unique family dynamics, the pressures of getting married, the effects of racism on our mindsets, and how occupations can affect our mentality and relationships. Get a copy of this book to enjoy all these stories and more.

I Never Knew How Old I Was is a captivating collection of stories with enlightening lessons that explore human connections. The stories have familiar everyday characters with relatable problems and situations. I could not help but see myself in the characters and loved that each story features characters of different ages as each generation has its way of living and interpreting life. The story of a man who attends his grandfather's hundredth birthday celebration and realizes his father's role in his grandfather's life is a heartwarming tale among many others. The author takes ordinary events and reveals their emotional significance, and how they impact the narrator's life and shape their future. The collection has consistent themes about adapting to change and being authentic, honest, and humble. I recommend reading these life-changing stories. Overall, I found David Joseph's work to be amazing, and I look forward to reading more.

Jon Michael Miller

I Never Knew How Old I Was, an anthology of sixteen short stories by David Joseph (who has impressive writing credentials), presents deceptively simple narratives with subtle meanings that linger in the mind long after you finish each one. Though they are all written from a first-person point of view, the “I” is not the same storyteller from piece to piece. Most of the stories take their titles from actual sentences in the text, such as the title of the collection which is also the title of the last entry—titles like I Looked at Her for a Long Time and She Had Masks That Hung on Her Wall. The tales are about ordinary people leading ordinary lives, but somehow David Joseph brilliantly extracts the extraordinary from the ordinary. The first-person narrators speak to us as though we’ve met them on a long bus ride, recounting simple but memorable experiences that they have had, and people they once knew or had met.

As a reader, I was blown away by the brilliance of Mr. Joseph’s approach to storytelling—an uncle who romanced much younger women, much to the chagrin of his family, and always told the truth no matter what. A kid working as a bellhop forging a profitable relationship with a hotel hooker. A dad who works pridefully with his hands and muscles at a steel mill that goes out of business. A quick breakup, a 100-year-old grandfather who loves prime rib, a reliable greasy-spoon owner, a young couple who put on exotic masks and descend through a trapdoor to make love. Or, the last piece, titled the same as the whole collection, of a young man who, having recently lost his mother, flees to New York City as a means of self-destruction and is saved by a barfly who wears a pink boa and whose parents were avid fans of the Grateful Dead. All the stories add up to the brilliance of meaning in the most simplistic situations and to the reader meeting an unforgettable collection of ordinary characters radiating the joy and wonder of being alive even amid life’s tragedies. David Joseph’s I Never Knew How Old I Was is as pleasurable and elevating a read as I have ever come across. I enjoyed the collection tremendously.