In December of 2018, Chelene Knight won the 30th City of Vancouver Book Award for her second book, Dear Current Occupant (Book Thug $20), a memoir about living at twenty different addresses while growing up in Vancouver.

It takes the form of a series of letters addressed to current occupants as she peers through windows into remembered spaces, recalling aspects of growing up with her brother in a variety of neighborhoods, including the Downtown Eastside, where her mother still lives.

“When I wrote Dear Current Occupant,” she recalled, “I went to the place that scared me the most. I found the one thing that punched me in the stomach and I wrote to that feeling, that memory, those wishes.”

She told co-nominee Travis Lupick for a Georgia Straight article: “There are so many stories of struggle and abuse and neglect. I think that a lot of young girls think, ‘Well, that’s my path. This is what I’ve seen, this is the way I grew up, and this is the only way to go.’ I’m showing folks that ‘Yes, this is kind of rough stuff, but…there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can go through all of these things and still be bloody amazing.’”

The other finalists were Travis Lupick (Fighting for Space), Erín Moure (Sitting Shiva on Minto Avenue, by Toots), and Rachel Rose (Sustenance: Writers From B.C. and Beyond on the Subject of Food).

The city's new general manager of arts, culture and community services, Sandra Singh, noted that Vancouver has a "deep and connected literary community...that brings forth rich and diverse voices. With the Book Award at its 30th year, we continue to champion creativity and connection through stories that encourage reflection in ourselves, our communities, and our shared city."

In 2018, Knight was the managing editor of the feminist journal Room and the programming director of the Growing Room festival.

Also a graduate of The Writer's Studio at SFU, Vancouver-born Knight released her first poetry collection, Braided Skin (Mother Tongue, 2015), largely emanating from experiences arising from her mixed ethnicity, poverty, urban upbringing and youthful dreams while growing up as a mixed East Indian/Black child and teen.

The title poem 'Braided Skin' uses the analogy of braiding -- the concept of entwining -- to reflect racial tensions and ambiguities, always with the promise or threat of unravelling. Responding to the strands that comprise her life and her poetry, Wayde Compton, the African-Canadian director of SFU Writers Studio, noted Knight's poetry does "not let tribulation define the journey, though it's there," but instead there is a consistent quality of dance and laughter through the book. Knight has been published in Sassafras Literary Magazine, Room, emerge 2013 and Raven Chronicles.

She was featured on the cover of BC BookWorld when she published her first book in 2015.


Junie (Book*hug Press, 2022) $23 978-1771667685

Dear Current Occupant (BookThug, 2018) $20

Braided Skin (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2015) $18.95 978-1-896949-50-5

[BCBW 2022] "Afro-Canadian"