His father was a Jewish Maskil, who sent Yosef to Russian and Polish schools. At the age of 19 he went to study engineering in Nancy, France. However, privation sent him to the USA in 1907, where he settled in New York City, where his name became Joseph Opatovsky, and he later took the professional name of Joseph Opatoshu.
- 1914 From the New York Ghetto
- 1914 Di naye heym
- 1918 Alone: Romance of a Forest-Girl
- 1919 Hebrew
- 1921 In Polish Woods
- אין פּוילישע וועלדער, 1921; translated to English from the Yiddish by Isaac Goldberg: In Polish woods, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1938
- 1926 1863
- ראָמאַן פֿון א פֿערד־גנבֿ, 1917; Romance of a Horsethief
- The last revolt, the story of Rabbi Akiba; translated from the Yiddish by Moshe Spiegel, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1952
- אַ טאָג אין רעגעסבורג, Di Goldene Pave Paris 1955; translated to English from the Yiddish by Jacob Sloan: A day in Regensburg; short stories, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1968
- The Dancer
- A Day in Regensburg, a writing about Jewish German Life in the sixteenth century
- Bar-Kokhba (1953), a Hebrew novel
- A movie based on "Romance of a Horsethief" was released in 1971. His son, David Opatoshu wrote the screenplay and it was directed by Abraham Polonsky. The cast includes, among others, Yul Brynner as Captain Stoloff, Eli Wallach as Kifke, Jane Birkin as Naomi, and his son David as Schloime Kradnik.
- Lists of Opatoshu's books in the Chabad library catalogs:
- Works in the Steven Spielberg Digital Library: 
- Sidebar in Ha'aretz Daily Newspaper, January 13, 2006, page ה1 (Hebrew)
- "Workbook" on the Asch-Howe Quarrel, on the Hartford, CT, Trinity College web site
- "Romance of a Horsethief" on the IMDb web site
- His tombstone on the University of Cape Town "TOMB STONE EXHIBIT" web site
- Studio portrait of (right to left) Moshe (Moses) Kulbak, Joseph Opatoshu, Maks Eryk and Zalman Reisen, board members of the Yiddish P.E.N. Club.1928 (from the Vilna page on the Eilat Gordin Levitan web site)
- a portrait by Marc Chagall on the The McGill University Digital Collections Program web site.