Winner of the 2018 City of Vancouver Book Award
From Vancouver-based writer Chelene Knight, Dear Current Occupant is a creative non-fiction memoir about home and belonging set in the 80s and 90s of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Using a variety of forms, 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 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.
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 1930's and 40's in Vancouver's Hogan's Alley.
"Knight is a poet at heart, somewhat disinclined to follow the dusty rules of prose writing, and we are all richer for it. This memoir is built from shards of pure resilience, expertly pieced together into a compelling--and at times devastating--chronicle of youth, family, and sense of place. From Clark Drive to Commercial and Broadway, Dear Current Occupant is a love song to East Vancouver--it is a map of scars, and as everyone knows, scars make for good storytelling. " --Carleigh Baker, author of Bad Endings, finalist for the 2018 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
"Dear Current Occupant is an astonishing book: haunting, intimate, and deeply rendered. A lyrical memoir set against the backdrop of Vancouver's gritty East Side, it triumphantly melds together prose, poetry, letters and imagery, to illuminate the pain of un-belonging, the search for a home, and the power of words to heal and transform us. It is a book that boldly takes risks, unafraid and brimming with raw energy, tenderness, and heartbreaking beauty. Chelene Knight emerges as a fierce new voice in Canadian literature, deserving of our full attention. " --Ayelet Tsabari, author of The Best Place on Earth
"I want to thank Chelene Knight for not forcing her memoir into a point "a to b" narrative. Too often complex and stigmatized stories are dumbed-down, but Knight elevates! She uplifts both her her experiences and the poetic prose and hybrid forms used to share these experiences. Dear Current Occupant will surely become a nuanced creative touchstone that shows us how our stories of survival can and should be told. " --Amber Dawn, author of Sub Rosa and How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler's Memoir