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Chelene Knight will be a consulting producer on TV series based on her novel Junie

Chelene Knight. Photo by Jon McRae
Chelene Knight's debut novel, Junie, is set in Hogan's Alley in the 1930s. Photo by Jon McRae.

The story of a Black girl growing up in Vancouver in the 1930s is being adapted into a 10-episode TV series. Vancouver-born and Harrison Hot Springs–based writer Chelene Knight will be a consulting producer on the show, which will be based on her debut novel Junie.

“It is my hope that this series showcases the complexity of home, belonging, and being Black in Vancouver,” Knight said in a news release.

Vancouver-based Akilla Express—founded by Vancouver actor Praneet Akilla—and veteran producer Teresa M. Ho will produce the show. Ho’s Toronto-based 100 Dragons Media already produces the short-form series Hello (Again). Its website describes 100 Dragons Media as a “feminist company focused on amplifying diverse voices, creators and talent with underrepresented stories and inclusive ideas”,

The IP BC Pilot Program, a partnership of the Canadian Media Producers Association B.C. Producers Branch and Creative BC, has offered financial support to the project. Last December, Creative BC announced that the new pilot initiative would offer $200,000 in grants, each up to $25,000, “for the optioning of pre-existing intellectual property (IP) by B.C.-based production companies”.

Junie is a coming-of-age tale set in the Hogan’s Alley area of the Strathcona neighbourhood. This area on the southeastern edge of Chinatown was a centre of Black community life for decades in Vancouver. However, it was demolished just over 50 years ago to make room for the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. The city government planned to connect these structures to a freeway project, but the highway was never built due to intense community opposition.

Earlier this year, Chelene Knight discussed Junie with Shakura S’Aida.

Junie features elegant writing

Knight’s novel revolves around an introverted artistic girl named Junie, who experiences a sexual awakening. It’s full of interactions with her more confident friend, Estelle, and Junie’s brash, hard-drinking mother Maddie. In many respects, the unrestrained Maddie, who’s a nightclub singer, is the diametric opposite of her daughter.

Knight’s other characters include a thoughtful teacher and a shopkeeper who provides a refuge to Junie in his store.

Junie book jacket

Pancouver reviewed Junie last year, praising Knight’s extraordinary use of the English language. The novel made the longlist for the Carol Shields Prize for Fiction. In addition, Junie was a finalist for the 2023 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction.

Meanwhile, Knight’s memoir, Dear Current Occupant, won the Vancouver Book Award. Published by Book*hug Press in 2018, it consists of a series of letters, essays, and poems addressed to residents of the many homes in which she lived while growing up.

“Peering through windows and doors into intimate, remembered spaces now occupied by strangers, Knight writes to them in order to deconstruct her own past,” the publisher states on its website. “From the rubble of memory she then builds a real place in order to bring herself back home.”

Watch the trailer for Dear Occupant.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.