The Chat With Chelene Knight

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive on 2018-05-20 00:59Z by Steven

The Chat With Chelene Knight

49th Shelf
2018-05-09

Trevor Corkum

dearcurrentoccupant

Chelene Knight’s debut memoir Dear Current Occupant (Bookt*ug) takes a closer look at childhood trauma and the uncertain idea of home. It’s a haunting, experimental, and deeply moving book which follows the author as she returns to many of the apartments she lived in as a young girl.

The Toronto Star calls Knight “one of the storytellers we need most right now” and calls the writing in Dear Current Occupant “lush, lyrical…mesmerizing.”

Chelene Knight was born in Vancouver, and is currently the Managing Editor of Room Magazine. A graduate of The Writers’ Studio at SFU, Chelene has been published in various Canadian and American literary magazines. Her debut book, Braided Skin, was published in 2015. Dear Current Occupant is her second book. Chelene is also working on a historical novel set in the 1930s and 40s in Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley.

Trevor Corkum: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind Dear Current Occupant?

Chelene Knight: While I was writing my first book, Braided Skin (Mother Tongue Publishing 2015), I felt that there was an unfinished thread. Something wasn’t complete. I actually started working on Dear Current Occupant in 2013, but quickly tucked it away because the realization that I was not ready to re-experience everything was quite apparent. I was not ready to write these stories.

When it comes to childhood and trauma, there’s a certain amount of healing that needs to occur, you have to distance yourself a bit, step back from the table. Every day on my way to work I’d pass ride the Sky Train and just before the train pulled into Broadway Station, I’d get this twinge as I passed one of the buildings I used to live in as a young girl. Then I’d pass another, and another, and another and the same twinges poked and prodded under my skin. Then I knew I was ready to start the work, to put the pieces together.

I stood out front of as many of the houses as I could remember and I just wrote. It was winter and I was cold. I didn’t have gloves on and the snow was coming down, but I couldn’t stop. Memories and fragments came back like lightening. There was something about being there in the space. Even though I was outside those walls I knew so well, I will still there, back in time. I had no idea the effect this book would have on people. I have received nothing but stories of change, emails, tweets, messages, and posts about how this book changed them.

And at the end of the day isn’t that what a book is supposed to do? Change the reader…

Read the entire interview here.

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In the Wake of His Damage

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2018-05-19 23:46Z by Steven

In the Wake of His Damage

The Rumpus
2018-05-12

Shreerekha
New York, New York


Rumpus original art by Aubrey Nolan

All the sleeping women
Are now awake and moving.
Yosano Akiko (1911)

For all women who already know this narrative;
For all women touched by the Great Writers, named, unnamed, and some listed as letters;
For all who commune in the trauma and healing promised herein;
For all who believe in the power of radical transgressive border-crossing love;
For my Happiness, and my son and my daughter, so that you may walk differently;
For the ex with whom love remains the last transgression —

The Autobiographical

The year after I started teaching in Texas, his novel came out. Ten years after the event of our relationship, ten tortured years where we continued to communicate, a sort of communication that involved him reaching out, letting me know I made all the wrong decisions in my life, and then, asking for forgiveness and another chance, I thought I should teach his novel in my classes. The novel itself was important, won the Pulitzer, and by teaching it enough times, I thought it would do the trick. The classroom is sacral: all that goes through it turns magical and I would emerge whole. I would finally be rid of my ghost-love and I could sanitize our past through the distance offered by teaching and making a monument of his work for my students. Somehow, that plan failed.

What I do is teach, write, and think on, most often, feminist texts and theories. Such a pedagogy has not just carried me through the classrooms over the decades, but become a mooring post in life. It offers me a vision and a strategy, a way to love radically, think fearlessly, and keep renewing, as I can, the bridges between projects of feminism and social justice. Gloria Anzaldua’s vision, a vision that has carried many a woman through a dark day, has been valuable in thinking through the rubble of this event in my life. In Borderlands, Anzaldua offers a prophetic amalgam that helps women identify the productive potential of the mestiza way, the middle spaces she calls the nepantla. For women of the many elsewheres, women who continually travel and cross borders, Anzaldua’s psychic restlessness gives a fist bump of legitimacy, an anchor in the cultural collisions many of us remain mired in. Rather than a counter stance, she speaks of developing a position that is inclusive, inaugurating for us the amasamiento, a creature of both light and darkness.

I identify in a category not formalized or accepted in colonial census charts or western ways of understanding the other, as a black South Asian. I am an Indian who lays claim to the global community of black consciousness, and I reside between so many worlds of belonging and unbelonging. In racializing colorism and politicizing my own experience of antipathy witnessed toward the color of my skin, I crafted my own passport into marooned and shapeshifting black communities that gave credence to ontologies and a posteriori narratives over normative constructions of race, ethnicities, and nationalities…

Read the entire article here.

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I study biracial identity in America. Here’s why Meghan Markle is a big deal.

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2018-05-14 20:24Z by Steven

I study biracial identity in America. Here’s why Meghan Markle is a big deal.

Vox
2018-05-14

Sarah E. Gaither, Assistant Professor of Psychology
Duke University


Photos: Getty Images. Photo illustration: Christina Animashaun/Vox

Biracial representation is sorely needed in a country with a fraught relationship with mixed-race people.

Growing up in the late ’80s as a biracial girl, I never had a mixed-race princess whose image I could sport on my backpack or my lunchbox. There was little to no representation of my identity — almost no characters in movies or television shows, no musicians or celebrities who identified as mixed-race.

For today’s biracial youth, Meghan Markle, the actress who is marrying into the British royal family — and who has defined herself publicly as “a strong, confident mixed-race woman” — represents the biracial role model I didn’t have growing up.

My mother is white and my father is black, and as a social psychologist, I research mixed-race identity and perceptions of biracial people for a living. The history of biracial couplings and children in our country is fraught: The “one drop” rule that categorized people with any African ancestry as “colored” was legally codified in a couple of states in the early 1900s. Interracial marriage was illegal in some states starting in 1664 until 1967 with the famous Loving v. Virginia case, and it wasn’t until the year 2000 when the option to “check all that may apply” for race appeared on the census…

Read the entire article here.

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Adventures in Black and White

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Forthcoming Media, Monographs, United States, Women on 2018-05-13 15:45Z by Steven

Adventures in Black and White

2Leaf Press
2018-05-28 (originally published in 1960)
324
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-940939-77-3
eBook ISBN: 978-1-940939-89-6

Philippa Duke Schuyler (1931-1967)

Edited and with a critical introduction by:

Tara Betts, Lecturer
University of Illinois, Chicago; Chicago State University

Adventures in Black and White, a memoir-travelogue, was first published by world-renown child prodigy Philippa Duke Schuyler in 1960. In this first revised edition of Adventures in Black and White since its initial publication, scholar Tara Betts provides a critical introduction to this updated volume, including minor edits, and annotations of the original text. Recognized as a prodigy at an early age, Schuyler was heralded as America’s first internationally-acclaimed mixed race celebrity. Her father, a conservative African American journalist, and her mother, a white Texan heiress, dedicated Schuyler’s development to the cause of integration with the claim that racial mixing could produce a superior hybrid human, a claim that Schuyler resisted, but would nonetheless hurl her into a destructive identity crisis that consumed her throughout her life. When the transition from child prodigy to concert pianist proved challenging in America, like many black performers before her, she went abroad during the 1950s for larger audiences. Schuyler’s witnessing first-hand the dissemblage of European colonies in Africa and the Middle East, is the focus of Adventures in Black and White. Luckily, this narrative connects the twenty-first century to right after the Harlem Renaissance, and the prelude to the forthcoming Civil Rights Movement at a time when interracial identity was just becoming part of a public conversation in America. As Schuyler begins to write about Africa—”the homeland of her ancestors”—readers can begin to understand how the young musician would eventually find her way as an author and a journalist, and the books that followed.

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Why Chelene Knight wrote letters to the current occupants of the houses she lived in growing up

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews on 2018-05-10 19:41Z by Steven

Why Chelene Knight wrote letters to the current occupants of the houses she lived in growing up

CBC Books
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
2018-03-06

Ryan B. Patrick, Associate Producer


Chelene Knight is an author based in Vancouver. (Chelene Knight/BookThug)

Chelene Knight is a Vancouver-based writer and editor. Of Black and East Indian heritage, Knight’s Dear Current Occupant mixes poetry and prose to tell a story about home and belonging, set in the 1980s and 1990s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The book plays with genre by way of a series of letters addressed to the current occupants now living in the 20 different houses she moved in and out of with her mother and brother. Knight tells CBC Books how she wrote Dear Current Occupant.

A bus ride beginning

“The first draft was originally all poetry, but my publisher suggested I rewrite it as creative nonfiction. I tried to write this book in generic memoir form. I sat down wanting to write about some of my childhood experiences. But it couldn’t come out. I thought maybe it’s not the right time.

“Then I was on the bus one snowy day and I passed by one of the houses that I lived in as a child and something sparked in me. I got off the bus and I stood in front of this house. I had a notebook with me and I started scribbling. The memories were coming back to me — flooding in — and it was this visceral thing where I needed to be in that place and then be transported back to those times.”…

…Writing for others

“We always hear people say there are no Black people in Vancouver, but there are. I identify as a Black woman. I know there was a larger Black community in Vancouver many years ago, but people have been displaced. I definitely want to reach people who not only are of mixed ethnicity but who also identify as Black.

“I’m writing this for the community that I wish were here now. So whether you are Black, of mixed race or can identify with the trauma parts of the book, I think there are different layers in the work where you can see something different every time. That’s what I like with the hybrid form, of poetry and prose.”

Read the entire article here.

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Dear Current Occupant: A Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Canada, Monographs on 2018-05-10 16:50Z by Steven

Dear Current Occupant: A Memoir

BookThug
2018-04-01
132 pages
5 x 1 x 8 inches
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-1771663908

Chelene Knight

From Vancouver-based writer Chelene Knight, Dear Current Occupant is a creative nonfiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Using a variety of forms including letters, essays and poems, Knight reflects on her childhood through a series of letters addressed to all of the current occupants now living in the twenty different houses she moved in and out of with her mother and brother. From blurry and fragmented non-chronological memories of trying to fit in with her own family as the only mixed East Indian/Black child, to crystal clear recollections of parental drug use, Knight draws a vivid portrait of memory that still longs for a place and a home.

Peering through windows and doors into intimate, remembered spaces now occupied by strangers, Knight writes to them in order to deconstruct her own past. From the rubble of memory she then builds a real place in order to bring herself back home.

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My name is Joseph Boyden

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2018-05-10 14:55Z by Steven

My name is Joseph Boyden

Maclean’s
2017-08-02

Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden (Photograph by Jacob C Boynton)
Joseph Boyden (Photograph by Jacob C Boynton)

Being Indigenous isn’t all about DNA. It’s about who you claim, and who claims you.

My name is Joseph Boyden. Late last December I had a hard time wrapping my head around what a Cree Elder I’ve known and respected for 25 years told me when we spoke about the firestorm that questions concerning my ancestry had sparked in Canada over the holidays. This elder told me that I was experiencing a rite of passage. I wanted to tell him that I’d not long ago turned 50, and weren’t rites of passage something geared more toward the teenage years? But I knew to listen and not interrupt. He told me that what I was experiencing was actually a gift.

A gift? People I did and didn’t know were questioning my family’s history, our creation stories, our ancestry. People were questioning me as a fiction writer and a journalist and a vocal activist for Indigenous rights in our country as an honorary witness of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Now, from these months of hindsight, I understand it was the perfect storm brewing. Last October I’d spoken up publicly to demand accountability by a university and its conduct in the treatment of a friend—and the complainants— embroiled in an ugly and horribly mishandled controversy that ended up sending shockwaves beyond literary Canada…

Read the entire article here.

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I’m Not My Mother’s Cleaning Lady

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United States on 2018-05-02 15:09Z by Steven

I’m Not My Mother’s Cleaning Lady

narratively: Human Stories, Boldy Told
2018-04-30

Lisa W. Rosenberg


Loveis Wise

People see an elderly white woman and her middle-aged black daughter and assume I must be the hired help.

“Who do you work for?” the maintenance man wants to know, eyes narrowed slightly. I register his accent just as he’s appraised my brown skin. English is not his first language. We’re alone in the laundry room of my mother’s condo, where I’ve been folding sheets. He’s just walked in, toolbelt at his hips, and stumbled upon an unfamiliar woman of color. I reason that, to him, brown skin plus housework means Help. Either I work for someone in the building, or else I’m an interloper from the housing project across the street.

As I consider the best response, my gaze takes in the name-tag pinned to his front pocket. “Tony.”

He’s subjugated me with his question, but I know his name. Should I use it and answer directly? With snark?

“I’m self-employed,” I might respond, telling the truth but playing dumb. “I have a private psychotherapy practice in New Jersey.” I could add, “I’m very fortunate. My work schedule allows me to visit my mother and do her laundry from time to time.”

“I’m visiting my mother,” I say benignly. “Just helping her out.” I smile as if it’s a quaint indulgence to do a loved one’s chores, as if I’ve sent the servants back to their families to enjoy a day of rest…

Read the entire article here.

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Bedside Books: How Half-Breed by Maria Campbell connected musician Nick Ferrio to his grandmother

Posted in Arts, Audio, Autobiography, Canada, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation on 2018-04-25 23:50Z by Steven

Bedside Books: How Half-Breed by Maria Campbell connected musician Nick Ferrio to his grandmother

CBC Radio
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
2018-04-16


Musician Nick Ferrio examines Maria Campbell’s autobiography, Half-Breed, and its depiction of race issues in Canada. (Jeff Bierk/Goodread Biography)

Musician Nick Ferrio is based in Peterborough, Ont., but his roots are in Saskatchewan. He recently read Maria Campbell’s memoir Half-Breed and its account of an Indigenous woman’s encounters with racism, and the book resonated with him, thanks to his own Cree ancestry.

Ferrio’s album Soothsayer also mixes several influences to create a personal style and sound.

Mapping internal conflict

“I think every Canadian should read Half-Breed. It’s an incredible story of a mixed woman whose ancestry is part Cree. She explains the racism she faced in Canada. It resonated with me as my paternal grandmother is Cree. Because of the Indian Act, her family was forced to leave the reserve. When she moved to Toronto, she had internal racism. She was ashamed of her identity. She passed as white, so she blended into white culture in Toronto. That’s a dark thing.”..

Listen to the story here. Read the story here.

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A Furious Voice, Forged In The ‘Fire’ Of Prejudice

Posted in Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom, United States on 2018-04-25 21:38Z by Steven

A Furious Voice, Forged In The ‘Fire’ Of Prejudice

Book Review
National Public Radio
2008-10-10

Jessa Crispin, Founder and Editor
Bookslut.com

If I Could Write This in Fire
By Michelle Cliff
Hardcover, 104 pages
University of Minnesota Press
List price: $21.95

While on a tour of the University of Virginia, Jamaican-American novelist and short-story writer Michelle Cliff is informed by a doctoral student that Thomas Jefferson never owned slaves. “‘Villagers,’ as they’re affectionately known,” says the student, “built [this] university, Monticello, every rotunda, column and finial the great man dreamed of. They liked him so much they just pitched in, after their own chores are done.”

It’s one of many unsettling moments in If I Could Write This in Fire, a collection of essays that is Cliff’s first nonfiction book. Everywhere Cliff goes, she sees people treating history as if it were a story they could rewrite at will: women at cocktail parties uttering, “Pinochet was not so bad”; guests at a dinner party disbelieving that the blacks in Birth of a Nation were white actors in blackface.

Cliff, 61, has always been an outsider — a lesbian born on a homophobic Caribbean island, an immigrant in the U.K. (where she studied) and the U.S. (where she settled), a mixed-race intellectual trying to make sense of a black and white world…

Read the entire review here.

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