A riveting exploration of the complexity within mother-daughter relationships and the dynamic vitality of Vancouver’s former Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood.
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. Junie quickly makes meaningful relationships with two mentors and a girl her own age, Estelle, whose resilient and entrepreneurial mother is grappling with white scrutiny and the fact that she never really wanted a child.
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.
Told through the fascinating lens of a bright woman in an oft-disquieting world, this book is intimate and urgent—not just an unflinching look at the destruction of a vibrant community, but a celebration of the Black lives within.
Praise for Junie:
“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.” —Esi Edugyan, two-time Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of Washington Black and Half-Blood Blues
“Junie is a debut novel of uncommon beauty, wisdom, and significance. It is a book about the neighbourhood that we remember as Hogan’s Alley—about the caring relations, insistent expressivity, and fiercest joys that have defined Black communities, past and present, against the animus of cities. And it is a book, as movingly, about a complex mother/daughter relationship, and about the amending love between friends. Chelene Knight proves once again an exacting cartographer of both place and the heart.” —David Chariandy, author of Brother
“The picture Knight paints of Hogan’s Alley is vibrant and complex. The place comes back to life in this novel. With Junie as our wise and wide-eyed guide, it’s hard to miss the magic in this lost community, and even harder to accept that it’s gone.” —Harrison Mooney, author of Invisible Boy: A Memory of Self Discovery
“Junie by Chelene Knight is a jewel of a novel. Set in the Hogan’s Alley neighbourhood in Vancouver, Junie celebrates the Black community and its history with beauty, precision, and an irresistible protagonist, a dreamer and artist searching for love and belonging. I have spent many years hoping someone would write a novel about Hogan’s Alley, a once-thriving neighbourhood that was razed for an overpass, and I am so happy that Chelene has written a book and characters that sparkle off the page and pay a gorgeous tribute to an often forgotten history.” —Jen Sookfong Lee, author of The Shadow List
“Chelene Knight’s poignant and enchanting novel immerses us in a reverie of 1930s Hogan’s Alley—the storied Black neighbourhood in East End Vancouver. The main character, Junie, is as dreamy and driven as any classic coming-of-age heroine—Francie Nolan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn springs to mind. Despite poverty and the unkindness of a bitter, disillusioned mother, Junie discovers wisdom and artistic inspiration in the beautiful complexity of her community—even as she fully embraces her racial and sexual identity. Page by page, we grow fonder of this compelling young Black woman who ultimately wins our compassion, delight, and respect.”
—Donna Bailey Nurse, literary critic
2022 Summer Reads List —The Tyee
Most Anticipated: 2022 Fall Fiction Preview —49th Shelf
“Junie is an engaging historical novel about the resilience, discoveries, and courage of women.” —Dontaná Mcpherson-Joseph, Foreword Reviews
Craving CanLit 2022 —Scotiabank Giller Prize
20 Must-Read Queer Books to Get Excited About in the Second Half of 2022 —Book Riot
12 hot-off-the-press books we recommend reading this September —Sean Loughran, Daily Hive
Fall Books Preview: the 40-plus books we’re most looking forward to this season —Toronto Star
65 works of Canadian fiction to watch for in fall 2022 —CBC Books
“Fittingly for a coming of age story, Junie’s challenges and growth are Junie’s central concerns. Knight captures her as keenly observant and wonderfully conflicted. She aches with yearning, intuiting — if not yet able to name — places and roles where her adult self will be fulfilled.” —Brett Josef Grubisic, The British Columbia Review
Chelene Knight on Junie —CBC Radio, The Next Chapter, with Shelagh Rogers
Mining the complexities of humanity —Ottawa Citizen
34 Bi and Lesbian Books Out September 2022! —Danika Ellis, Lesbrary
“Packed with history and heart, this is one great debut novel.” —Vancouver Sun
September Preview: The Millions Most Anticipated (This Month) —The Millions
Forthcoming historical novels for 2022 —Historical Novel Society
“In Junie, Knight explores the complex emotions existing between mothers and daughters while highlighting a long-lost corner of Canada in the 1930s. She uses a poetic narrative to shed light on each of the four women’s fragile dreams vulnerable to being crushed by the hard world in which they live.” —Andrea Geary, Winnipeg Free Press
Chelene Knight’s debut novel ‘Junie’ celebrates Hogan’s Alley, Vancouver’s unrecognized past —Sue Carter, The Toronto Star
Chelene Knight on Black joy and the power of introversion in her debut novel —Shazia Hafiz Ramji, Quill & Quire
Fall 2022 books preview: 64 books to keep you warm as the weather cools —Emily Donaldson, The Globe and Mail
The Chat with Chelene Knight —Trevor Corkum, 49th Shelf
Author Chelene Knight discusses her first novel, Junie —Alyssa Sherlock, Winnipeg Free Press
Where in Canada: Junie —All Lit Up
Excerpt from Junie by Chelene Knight —Open Book
“Knight’s Junie takes readers to the under-documented world of writer Saidiya Hartman’s errant Black women and girls. Their experiments in living freely – as singers, nightclub owners and artists; as mothers and daughters; as members of a small, tight-knit Black community – are tales of “the beauty of black ordinary,” as Hartman writes in Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments. Outside of Hogan’s Alley and the East End, these girls and women are surveilled and threatened, but within it, they can be their flawed and fantastic selves.” —Vicky Mochama, The Globe and Mail
Episode 6: Junie —Amy Mair, Red Fern Book Review Podcast
The best Canadian fiction of 2022 —CBC Books
An Interview with Chelene Knight —The Generous Imaginary, The Puritan
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.