1930s, Hogan’s Alley—a thriving Black and immigrant community located in Vancouver’s East End. Junie is a creative, observant child who moves to the alley with her mother, Maddie: a jazz singer with a growing alcohol dependency. As Junie finds adulthood, exploring her artistic talents and burgeoning sexuality, her mother sinks further into the bottle while the thriving neighbourhood—once gushing with potential—begins to change. As her world opens, Junie intuits the opposite for the community she loves.
“Bracing, intimate, Junie explores what it means to be young, black and gifted in 1930s Vancouver. Through the eyes of the budding artist, the thriving and electric community of Hogan’s Alley comes alive in all its vibrancy and splendour. This is a vivid, indelible world, one made more poignant by its coming loss,” writes Esi Edugyan, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues.
We are delighted to share this introduction from Chelene Knight!
In addition, we’ve selected an excerpt from the book, which you can view below. Junie will be released on September 13, 2022, and is available now for pre-order, either from our online shop or from your local independent bookstore.
IT ISN’T MUCH, but there is a peaceful bit of normal as we walk home, back to the warm feeling of the East End. The backs of our hands brush against each other. I wait for Mama to clutch my hand, and although she never does, the closeness and the quiet is, at this moment, enough. I can’t stop the film rolling in my head, over and over like a record with a hairline fracture that skips and plays the same line on repeat until it etches a permanent spot in my mind. She eyes the ladies that pass by, clips her eyes at their slender bodies and perfectly coiffed hair. Cars zoom past us. I know we are closer to home when the faces shift from white to brown and kids are running down the sidewalks with toys in their hands. There’s a space inside my chest that fills up with so much hurt. I want Mama to ask me questions, but she never asks me why I enjoy the sensation of my palms grazing things like the bark of trees, and why my heart pulses faster when the maple trees bow for me as I pass by. We pass the park and I eye the large oak tree holding itself firmly in place. I take in the cracks in the sidewalk under my feet and when I look up I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the shop window. I need Mama to ask me why I have to capture the beauty of our neighbourhood on my pocket-sized pad of paper that I carry with me every day in the small pouch of my faded sun dress. But she never asks.
Vancouver-born Chelene Knight is the author of Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, winner of the 2018 Vancouver Book Award. Her essays have appeared in multiple Canadian and American literary journals and newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and The Walrus and her work has been widely anthologized. Her poem ‘Welwitschia’ won the 2020 Contemporary Verse 2‘s Editor’s Choice award. She was shortlisted for PRISM‘s 2021 Short Forms contest. Chelene is the founder of her own literary studio, Breathing Space Creative, through which she has launched The Forever Writers Club, whose members are writers focused on creative sustainability. Chelene works as a literary agent with the Transatlantic Agency. She lives in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia.