James Cagney was born in Oakland, California, 1968. He was named after his father, a retired forklift mechanic. His mother, Juanita, worked as a beautician and teaching supervisor at several local beauty schools. Raised an only child, James was 19 before being told he was adopted. In his biological family, he was youngest of six. James’ father was diagnosed with an asbestos-related cancer the year he attempted to leave home for university. After his father’s death, he supported his mother and grandfather until their deaths. In those intervening years, James studied writing and poetry independently, via the public library, workshops, and the abundant open mic scene in the Bay Area. Cagney is a Cave Canem fellow and the author of Black Steel Magnolias in the Hour of Chaos Theory (Nomadic Press, 2018).