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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“I definitely want to reach people who not only are of mixed ethnicity but who also identify as Black.”

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2018-05-14 20:40Z by Steven

“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.” —Chelene Knight

Ryan B. Patrick, “Why Chelene Knight wrote letters to the current occupants of the houses she lived in growing up,” CBC Books, March 6, 2018. http://www.cbc.ca/books/why-chelene-knight-wrote-letters-to-the-current-occupants-of-the-houses-she-lived-in-growing-up-1.4533897.

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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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Museum buys 1882 painting by African-American artist who worked in Victoria

Posted in Articles, Arts, Canada, Media Archive on 2018-05-10 17:36Z by Steven

Museum buys 1882 painting by African-American artist who worked in Victoria

The Times Colonist
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
2018-04-24

Louise Dickson


Giant’s Castle Mountain: A.L. Fortune Farm, Enderby B.C. Oct. 6, 1882, painted by Grafton Tyler Brown while he was living in Victoria.
Photograph By via Royal B.C. Museum

The Royal B.C. Museum has purchased an major landscape painting by 19th-century African-American artist Grafton Tyler Brown.

The painting — Giant’s Castle Mountain: A.L. Fortune Farm, Enderby B.C. Oct. 6, 1882 — is considered by University of Victoria history professor John Lutz to be the most important of Brown’s B.C. paintings. The painting, bought for $44,000 from Uno Langmann Fine Art Ltd. in March, shows Alexander Leslie Fortune’s farmstead on the edge of a forest. The agrarian foreground is dwarfed by a looming mountain.

The Royal B.C. Museum holds the greatest number and most significant of Brown’s Canadian works. Giant’s Castle Mountain is considered to be a work of artistic and historical significance to British Columbians. It was painted in Victoria after Brown visited the southern Interior…

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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Hapa-palooza fosters cross-cultural knowledge and celebration

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Canada, Media Archive on 2017-09-21 19:03Z by Steven

Hapa-palooza fosters cross-cultural knowledge and celebration

Westender: Everything Vancouver
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2017-09-20

Tessa Vikander


Participants dance during the family day portion of last year’s Hapa Palooza festival, celebrating mixed race backgrounds. — Contributed photo

Mixed-race artists use hybrid experience as creative spring-board

“Halfers” are one of the fastest growing population groups and their experiences are informing a fresh wave of creativity, says Jeff Chiba Stearns, co-founder of the Hapa-palooza festival.

Now in its seventh year, the annual festival celebrating people of mixed backgrounds will hit Vancouver this weekend, providing space for celebration as well as discussion on the nuances of hybrid identity.

“Don’t think of us as a special little subset of the Canadian community or demographic, but we’re actually growing – we’re one of the fastest growing demographics,” Chiba Stearns says.

Carleigh Baker

Read the entire article here.

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The Missing British Columbia Paintings of Grafton Tyler Brown

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Canada, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2017-03-10 19:44Z by Steven

The Missing British Columbia Paintings of Grafton Tyler Brown

2015-02-27

John Lutz, Professor of History
University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia


Grafton Tyler Brown in his Victoria studio, 1883, Image A-08775  courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.

Grafton Tyler Brown became the first professional artist in the province when he reinvented himself in his move to British Columbia in 1882. Two years later he headed south to Tacoma and has since become famous in the United States as the first and one of the best Black professional artists in California and the Pacific Northwest. Practically unknown now, his paintings of the Fraser, Thompson, Okanagan, and Similkameen Valleys as well as southern Vancouver Island, were celebrated in Victoria in 1883 when he opened his inaugural exhibition. But Brown, the famous American Black artist, was, surprisingly, a White artist in British Columbia!

Brown was African American by birth. His parents, Thomas and Wilhelmina, were two free Blacks who had left the slave state of Maryland for the free state of Pennsylvania in 1837. Grafton Tyler Brown born February 22, 1841, was the first of three sons and a daughter, all of whom appear as Black in the censuses of the period…

…Whether by chance or more likely by craft, when Grafton Tyler Brown, who had inherited his father’s lighter colouring, was enumerated by the San Francisco directory makers for the 1861, he was listed without the designation “coloured” applied to Blacks. The 1870 census taker called him a “Mulatto” suggesting he was thought to have only one African American parent while that same year the Dun and Bradstreet credit agency called him a “quadroon” meaning that he was thought to have a single African American grandparent. In the census of 1880 he was listed as “White”. Race, the idea that people can be rigidly separated by their looks, proved itself to be quite arbitrary and open to interpretation…

Read the entire article here.

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How a man of mixed race helped create British Columbia

Posted in Articles, Biography, Canada, History, United States on 2017-03-01 02:12Z by Steven

How a man of mixed race helped create British Columbia

The Vancouver Courier
2017-02-14

Martha Perkins, Editor-in-Chief


Sir James Douglas, who became governor of Vancouver Island in 1851, was born in Guyana to a Creole mother and Scottish father.

To celebrate Black History Month we profile the Hudson Bay Company’s Sir James Douglas

In 1803 in what was then British Guyana, James Douglas was born. His father was a Scottish merchant and his mother was what they called “free coloured” — a Creole woman of mixed African and European heritage.

Unlike his younger sister, who was as dark skinned as their mother, Douglas appeared to be Caucasian. But his later actions, including marrying a woman of Cree ancestry, have led amateur historian (and former Vancouver mayor) Sam Sullivan to believe that when Douglas built Fort Victoria, his aim was to create an inclusive society where everyone had an opportunity to thrive…

Read the entire article here.

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Guest Shot: Vancouver viaducts removal clears way to honour Hogan’s Alley

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy on 2016-12-01 01:10Z by Steven

Guest Shot: Vancouver viaducts removal clears way to honour Hogan’s Alley

Vancouver Metro News
2016-11-10

Wayde Compton


Vancouver writer Wayde Compton (Ayelet Tsabari/Submitted)

Removal of the 1960s downtown infrastructure a chance to create a gathering space, an archive, for future black communities, argues Wayde Compton

Last year, Vancouver City Council voted to take the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts down.

This was the culmination of years of study, spearheaded by Coun. Geoff Meggs of Vision Vancouver. Before the vote, members of the public appeared before council to say a few words, to voice their hopes and concerns.

They were so numerous that two days were required to accommodate everyone. While a wide variety of opinions were aired, many of the people there insisted that in some way or other the new plans need to honour the history of Hogan’s Alley — the neighbourhood that existed for decades at the site where the viaducts were built in the late 1960s, and which included a sizeable population of black Vancouverites..

…The viaducts were part of an “urban renewal” scheme that fit a pattern of such plans all across North America during that era: freeways were slated to connect cities to their suburbs, and they were almost always run through black neighbourhoods — because black residents were considered expendable.

In the case of Vancouver, Chinatown was also targeted.

But as it turned out, Vancouver’s freeway plan was never realized, and the only portion built was the one that obliterated black centralization in the East End (or Strathcona, as it came to be called through this planning)…

Read the entire article here.

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Hapa-Palooza 2015 | Talking Hapa With Canadian Broadcaster Margaret Gallager

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive on 2015-11-28 16:39Z by Steven

Hapa-Palooza 2015 | Talking Hapa With Canadian Broadcaster Margaret Gallager

Schema Magazine
2015-09-17

Marissa Willcox

Hapa-palooza is here! Celebrating what Vancouver does best: mixed-heritage and blended cultural identities. Drawing from the Hawaiian origin of the word “hapa” (used by many people in Canada and U.S. who identify as being of mixed-heritage) Vancouver is a perfect venue this year’s diverse array of speakers, workshops and family events.

This festival spans over four days and features many mixed-heritage voices, including Vancouver’s much-loved broadcaster Margaret Gallager. An award winning CBC radio host, she joins Lawrence Hill on September 17th for a much-anticipated evening of stimulating conversation at the GoldCorp Centre for the Arts. Marissa Willcox had a chance to ask her a few questions about her cultural identity and work in Canada’s public broadcaster.

Marissa Willcox: As a broadcaster and community member of mixed-heritage, to what extent is Vancouver’s ethnic and cultural diversity an aspect of the stories you cover?

Margaret Gallager: As someone who works for the public broadcaster, it’s part of my job (and privilege) to reflect Canadian society through the stories I bring to air. And diversity is a huge part of who we are, especially in Vancouver. So, if you’re doing your job right, some of those stories are naturally going to come from diverse communities.

I’d say that cultural diversity is better reflected in the media these days than it was when I was growing up, whether that is in the stories that are told, or the people who are presenting them. And I think that change came about in part through a conscious effort that has taken years…

Read the entire interview here.

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