Masha’allah and Other Stories

Winner of the 2012 California Book Award, Silver Medal for First Fiction

Winner of Heyday’s James D. Houston Award, emerging writer Mariah K. Young brings readers deep into the varied lives of remarkable individuals at the fringes of dominant culture. Set in the lively and unpredictable landscape of East Oakland, Young’s subtly crafted stories and unforgettable characters continually surprise and delight. In each of these nine tales, Young invites us into the worlds of a diverse cast of genuine, hard-working people: we take a ride with a hired driver who gets more than he bargains for with an unusual fare; we meet a day laborer whose search for work leads him to the edges of human sacrifice and hope; we join a plucky house cleaner named Chinta, who sets up impromptu beauty parlors in the houses she cleans.

Young’s fiction shines not only with literary power and warmth but with eye-opening freshness and honesty that cuts straight to the heart, reflecting our unflagging allegiances to love, family, luck, and hope. We are proud to publish Young’s first book, as we believe it marks the start of a long and promising career for one of California’s next great writers.

Hear Ms. Young read from the title story, “Masha’allah”:

About the James D. Houston Award
Known as a masterful writer in both fiction and nonfiction genres, James D. Houston was also a dedicated teacher and passionate promoter of emerging authors. Friends and family have established a fund to honor his memory and further his legacy. The James D. Houston Award will support publication of books by writers who reflect Jim’s humane values, his thoughtful engagement with life, and his literary exploration of California, Hawai‘i, and the West. For more information about the award, how to donate to it, and how to submit a manuscript for consideration, please visit


“A talented young writer daring to push against the boundaries of tradition—what could be better for a reader?”

—Alan Cheuse, book commentator for National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”


"The best thing that may be said about these stories is that in them Ms. Young never is content to deliver retreads, to issue the easy political statement in place of a skilled literary comment."

New York Journal of Books


"The characters represent people not often seen in literary works, those who make do by cutting corners and working under the table, situations Young experienced herself. "

—San Jose Mercury News


"These are stories about the characters, about their lives on the edge of the dominant culture; an excellent book to read, to read again, to study."

Sacramento Press


“From the first story I read by Mariah K. Young, I knew she was the real thing. Her characters, driving up and down the highways and rural roads of California, keep trying to make things right, and with one eye on the right-now and one eye on the could-be, they fight to find the best way they can. Their lives are full of story, and their voices full of wry humor and insight and love.”

—Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon and Take One Candle Light a Room


“Beautifully written and soulful, each of these stories is a perfect slice of sweaty, sun-blasted life, compellingly capturing the daily struggle to grab a piece of the California dream.”

—Mark Haskell Smith, author of Baked


“These are haunting and moving stories, grounded in place and cultural specificity, yet electrified by a deep human concern for that other space, all too often invisible to us, where people rebel against what defines them, in that timeless effort to become themselves.”

—Andrew Winer, author of The Marriage Artist


“This book is a beautifully intimate audience with emissaries from the shadows, an audience hosted by a remarkable new voice for working-class America.”

—Michael Jaime-Becerra, author of Every Night Is Ladies’ Night


Masha’allah is as beautiful and cruel as Oakland can be. Mariah K. Young’s far ranging and ambitious collection calls to mind the urgency and power of Junot Diaz’s Drown. In her work, race, identity, and culture are secondary to shared humanity. A brilliant choice for the first James D. Houston Award.”

—Jervey Tervalon, author of Understand This

About the Author

Mariah K. YoungMariah K. Young was born in Alameda, California, and spent her childhood living in the Bay Area and in Lahaina, Hawai‘i. She graduated with an English degree from California State University, East Bay—she still calls it Cal State Hayward, even though no one’s counting anymore—where she won the first annual RV Williams prize for fiction. In 2008, she earned her MFA in creative writing from UC Riverside, andthat same year, she attended the Squaw Valley Writers’ workshop on fellowship. She currently teaches writing in downtown Los Angeles, and lives in Hollywood, where she is hard at work on a novel (when she’s not grading essays).