GSWS Feminist Book Club - December 2022

December 14, 2022

GSWS Feminist Book Club's December Book:


by Chelene Knight

Book*hug Press

Chelene Knight’s novel Junie proved to be a provocative read for members of the GSWS Feminist Book Club. Set in 1930s Vancouver, British Columbia, the book unfolds at a pace some found slow and others equated to a warm hug. The imagined community in which Junie lives, the one she moved into as a pre-teen and where she grows up into a young woman, is meant to evoke Hogan’s Alley. Hogan’s Alley was home to Vancouver’s Black population and was later destroyed, an outcome foreshadowed in the story, when the city demolished the vibrant world that had taken root on the east side and plowed through its heart with the construction of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts. Our book club’s engaging discussion covered the themes of the book (there were many!), its narrative form, the character arcs and development, the challenges of making other eras come to life, and the existential crisis a young Black woman faces as she comes to terms with her identities as Black, Queer, an artist, a daughter, a lover, and a friend. While book club members felt that Knight introduced many intriguing ideas, including the always thorny question of mother-daughter relationships and the vagaries of female friendships, ultimately they felt that the author hesitated from pursuing these in a way that was complete and satisfying. The promise of an enthralling read fell short because the character development was lacking and too many threads were left to dangle in the insufficiency of good intentions. The occasional beautiful passage, evocative of portraiture and reminiscent of an artist’s palette, and frequent amen moments (“She doesn’t need the weight of a man pinning her dreams to the ground” p. 72), made up for some of the narrative shortcomings. However, the range of opinions among the readers was too vast to reduce the diverse readings of the novel to a singular rating. In the end, we opted for a qualified recommendation for a book that transports its readers into a historical place too few local residents know about and appreciate.

Interested in joining the GSWS Feminist Book Club? Stay tuned!

We will be sharing details about the club's upcoming selections and how to sign up soon.