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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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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Constantly proving my blackness is exhausting

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Media Archive on 2017-09-08 19:13Z by Steven

Constantly proving my blackness is exhausting

The Globe and Mail
2017-09-05

Chelene Knight


Chelene Knight

Chelene Knight is working on her third book, a novel about a friendship between two black women who grew up in Vancouver (Hogan’s Alley) in the 1930s and ’40s.

“But you don’t look that black.”

I remember walking into an event where I was asked to be a guest reader by a woman who had “heard about my book.” We had never met, I was unfamiliar with the other readers, never heard of the venue, but was still interested in expanding my literary horizons.

This is what emerging writers need to do, right? I introduced myself to her and she stared back at me for a good 15 seconds before furrowing her brow and saying “But you don’t look that black.”

I was left feeling “less than” and not worthy of being part of the event because I didn’t fit the mould of what black should be. I didn’t meet the expectations of the diversity hashtag.

My mother is an American-born black woman. My father is an East Indian-Ugandan who was kicked out of his country for not being black. Now, I am left to question my own blackness in a room full of white people with all eyes on me. I fumbled through my reading without ever looking up from my book…

Read then entire article here.

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Sense of Place with Minelle Mahtani – Chelene Knight

Posted in Arts, Audio, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive on 2017-03-01 21:09Z by Steven

Sense of Place with Minelle Mahtani – Chelene Knight

Sense of Place with Minelle Mahtani
Roundhouse Radio 98.3 FM
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2017-02-16

Minelle Mahtani, Host and Associate Professor of Human Geography and Planning, and the Program in Journalism
University of Toronto, Scarborough

Minelle speaks with Room magazine’s managing editor, Chelene Knight, about the local magazine and its volunteer collective.

Listen to the interview (00:15:50) here.

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Can We Talk

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive on 2016-11-13 20:59Z by Steven

Can We Talk

Mixed Roots Stories
2016-11-02

Chelene Knight

Please check one of the following boxes:

Black

White

Asian

Indigenous

Métis

Other

In my younger days I remember filling out a job application and staring at that question about race for so long. Do I check the ‘Black” box? What the hell is “Other?” My hand hovered over the question for a long time …

The more I write about life as a mixed-race person, and what this means to me as a mother, woman, writer etc, the more the writing itself tends to be less about race and more about missing pieces, and figuring out the order of these pieces and how to put them together. And not only the pieces I’ve never had, but re-working and making do with the ones I do have…

Read the entire article here.

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Interview with 39.4 Editor, Chelene Knight

Posted in Articles, Interviews, Media Archive, Women on 2016-06-06 01:06Z by Steven

Interview with 39.4 Editor, Chelene Knight

Room: Literature, Art, and Feminism Since 1975
May 2016

Interview by Rebecca Russell


Chelene Knight

The Room Collective is very excited to have you on board as the new Managing Editor. How are you adjusting to the new role?

I was super excited when I was asked to step up as Managing Editor at Room. The mentoring I received from the previous Managing Editor, Rachel Thompson, has been the most amazing experience. She is one talented woman, and has done a lot to make Room such a great place for women to raise their voices. The entire Room Collective has been super supportive and I can honestly finally say I am doing what I love. This transition isn’t easy, that’s for sure! It’s been a big learning curve for me but there are also certain aspects of the job that are pretty darn rewarding, like working with such a talented group of women who all share a passion for the literary arts. The role itself is all encompassing and I feel like a huge tree with a million branches shooting out in multiple directions, and I am finally being challenged—this is a good thing…

What can you tell us about the collection you’re currently working on, Dear Current Occupant?

It seems as though Dear Current Occupant has been in the works all my life. I had what you could call a “tough childhood,” and I wanted to write about it as a way of healing and as a way of setting things free into the world. It turned out to be a mixed-genre compilation of sonnets, prose, short story, erasure, and more. My first book, Braided Skin (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2015), told a story of race and the struggles of being of mixed-ethnicity, and focused on belonging and place in the racial/family sense, whereas Dear Current Occupant tackles the need for “home” and “place” in terms of the physical house. In the book, the narrator is a young adult looking back on the thirty homes she’s lived in as a child. She writes to the “current occupants” of these places to reflect on her own experiences when she was living there. She learns a lot about her “self” through this process. She opens doors, she unlocks and digs up things that were buried. The book also includes photos of the actual houses in various perspectives. The photography was done by Jade Melnychuk, and Rich Riordan. I am happy to say the manuscript is in my publishers’ hands as we speak…

Read the entire interview here.

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An Interview with Poet and Room Poetry Coordinator Chelene Knight

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Canada, Interviews, Media Archive, Women on 2016-02-15 17:02Z by Steven

An Interview with Poet and Room Poetry Coordinator Chelene Knight

Room: Literature, Art, and Feminism Since 1975
Issue 37.4: Claiming Space (2015)

Interview with Bonnie Nish

Chelene Knight was born in Vancouver and is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio at SFU. She has been published in Sassafras Literary Magazine, Room, emerge 2013 and Raven Chronicles and is the Poetry Coordinator at Room. Braided Skin, her first book (Mother Tongue Publishing, March 2015), has given birth to numerous writing projects, including a work in progress, Dear Current Occupant. Her work is deeply rooted in her experiences of mixed ethnicity. Her mother is African-American, and her father and his family were victims of the Asian expulsion in Uganda during the 70s, when President Idi Amin led a campaign of “de-Indianization,” resulting in the “ethnic cleansing” of the country’s Indian minority. Chelene is currently pursuing her BA in English at SFU.

Her first book Braided Skin is forthcoming with Mother Tongue Publishing in spring 2015. Her launch will take place Wednesday April 8th, 2015 from 7-9:30 pm as a part of Twisted Poets Literary Salon run by Pandora’s Collective.

ROOM: First of all Congratulations on your new book Braided Skin (Mother Tongue Publishing). Would you like to tell us something about your new book?

CK: Thank you! Braided Skin is a mix of many things…

Read the entire interview here.

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Braided Skin, Poems

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Canada, Media Archive, Poetry on 2016-02-15 15:52Z by Steven

Braided Skin, Poems

Mother Tongue Publishing
2015-03-15
96 pages
8″ x 6″
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-896949-50-5

Chelene Knight

Braided Skin is the vibrant telling of experiences of mixed ethnicity, urban childhood, poverty and youthful dreams through various voices. Knight writes a confident rhythm of poetry, prose and erasure by using the recurring image of braiding–a different metaphor than “mixing,” our default when speaking the language of race. In the title poem “Braided Skin,” this terminology shifts, to entwining and crossing, holding together but always displaying the promise or threat of unravelling. This is just as all tellings of family, history and relationships must be–“Skin that carries stories of missing middles.” When speaking about race, Knight raises the question, then drops it, and the image becomes other objects, then abstraction, and memory–finally becoming something “she breathes in” actively.

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