Member Reviews

Junie is about a young Black lesbian growing up in 1930s Canada, and whilst it shined at exploring the relationships of its characters, it was let down by an odd narrative style.

It's told in small segments from the POV of various characters, and then each segment has a small separate paragraph at the end that reflects on/ relates to the previous section (in Junie's POV these were in 1st person for some reason). The shortness of the segments meant scenes often ended abruptly and felt unfinished, and then we had some scenes/ POVs that didn't tie into any sort of overarching story and felt unnecessary. And the end parts, whilst sometimes insightful, more often felt irrelevant.

Was this review helpful?

JUNIE was one of the slowest and most confusing books I read last year. The writing is unclear; I didn't know whether we were following two different timelines at once or if Junie was supposed to be a very insightful little girl in her younger days. There was an overall lack of consistency.

Was this review helpful?

Junie is about a young Black lesbian growing up in 1930s Canada, and whilst it shined at exploring the relationships of its characters, it was let down by an odd narrative style.

It's told in small segments from the POV of various characters, and then each segment has a small separate paragraph at the end that reflects on/ relates to the previous section (in Junie's POV these were in 1st person for some reason). The shortness of the segments meant scenes often ended abruptly and felt unfinished, and then we had some scenes/ POVs that didn't tie into any sort of overarching story and felt unnecessary. And the end parts, whilst sometimes insightful, more often felt irrelevant.

This was a shame because the story itself, and especially its characters, were compelling. Junie explores mother-daughter relationships, coming-of-age, friendships, sexuality and race beautifully and the emotional core of the story really hits home.

The narrative style might work better for others than it did me (I sense it's a YMMV matter) and if so the actual story being told here is worth a read.

Was this review helpful?

Set within a thriving Black community in the East End of Vancouver during the 1930s, Junie grows up with her jazz singing mother Maddie. Maddie’s alcohol dependency is becoming a problem while Junie is exploring a close friendship with her classmate Estelle. As an adult, Junie is grappling with forging a career as an artist and figuring out her sexuality while her mother sinks further into addiction and the community that once felt so warm and promising changes. One thing that really struck me while reading Junie was how strong the sense of time and place were. I’ve never been to Vancouver and certainly wasn’t around in the 1930s but I could see, hear and smell everything about the setting, which I thought was amazing. It’s a very moving story about more than one strained mother-daughter relationship and it’s also a tale of friendship, race and queerness. It’s a very quiet, insular book which makes it quite an intimate reading experience that is perfect for curling up with.

Was this review helpful?

I wanted to like this book more than I did, and I think it comes down to a matter of taste, rather than the content being "good" or "bad." One issue that is not the fault of the author at all is the formatting of the eGalley; no matter which app I used to read it, the formatting came out funky and not reflective of what I believe the author's intention was. Thus, shifts in sequencing and narratives felt a little jagged, rather than the white space and pause effectively moving us to another moment.

Therefore, my feeling that the narrative was stripped down might not be fully correct. I wanted more meat to the story itself, but I feel there was not enough there there. In many ways, I longed for the story to put in another stylist's hands--Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston. The examination of a lush neighborhood at a specific time seemed emblematic of these authors, but their stories feel so much more lasting. I think, in the end, I will forget Junie and her story, and that makes me sad because she has a lot of excellent qualities that make her story compelling--her longing, her artist's eye, the way her body pulses for two women that are a part of her life, the time period, the specific buildings and their inhabitants. Unfortunately, it flattened for me, never quite taking off at any one point.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

“Junie” was a slow burn, but keeps you invested up until the very end. Following the life of Junie Lancaster, the story takes place in the 1930s and starts with Junie and her mother, Maddie, moving to Hogan's Alley—a thriving Black and immigrant community located in Vancouver's East End. From here, the author introduces us to a variety of new characters that will eventually come to shape Junie’s life in unimaginable ways. I really liked that each chapter focused on different narratives to help the reader understand the different perspectives throughout.

The dynamic between Junie and Maddie are toxic. Junie wants the love of a mother, however, Maddie’s alcohol dependency makes her mean and manipulative. If you’ve ever had a parent suffering from this disease, the author does a great job of portraying that dynamic between parent and child, and the emotional abuse that comes along with it.

As Junie comes into adulthood, I loved seeing her creativity blossom and the outside forces that come together to help her realize her true potential and talent. I also loved that she finally begins to explore her sexuality that helps her find her voice and become more comfortable in her own skin.

This was a win for me.

Was this review helpful?

• Mother/Daughter Relationships
• Addiction

“Junie” follows several women and shows their relationships as mother and daughter. Junie is an artist and the daughter of alcohol addicted club singer, Maddie. Junie’s best friend, Estelle, is the daughter of Faye. Faye is an overworked club owner and is Maddie’s boss. Part one is about when Junie and Estelle are children. Part two is when they are adults.

I see how well this could have gone, at least for me. However, there are so many little storylines that don’t quite follow through. I needed more information, like I only got part of the story. I did appreciate how Junie never really denied her sexuality and in that, it didn’t take away from the story.

<i>Thank you to Chelene Knight and Book*hug Press, for the Digital ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.<i>

#Junie #CheleneKnight #BookhugPress #NetGalley #ARC

Was this review helpful?

A story is told in 3 parts and through different POVs, Junie, her mother, Maddie, Estelle and her mother Fayewell Deftly written with an interesting storyline and developed characters. The book deals with some hard-hitting issues but is done with nuance.

Was this review helpful?

I love everything about this book from the setting, to the writing and the characters. It's also set during a forgotten piece of British Columbian history. I didn't know what East End (Hogan's Alley) was nor the fact the DT Vancouver was alive with music in 20's and 30's large in part to its black community.

Black Canadian history is always overlooked or forgotten in the BC curriculum and not only does Junie tell that history through its 4 fantastic black female characters it's told in a way that doesn't subject its black leads to overly violent or traumatic moments.

I love a good character driven story set in a small period of time. In this case it's the late 1920'S-1939. This is a well crafted mother/daughter story and it also has a sapphic romance.

CW/ Alcoholism, Child Neglect, Racism, Emotional Abuse, Homophobia

Was this review helpful?

Junie is a beautifully heartbreaking story about being a young, black and queer girl/woman in Vancouver in the 1930s.
The story is told in 3 parts and through different POVs, Junie, her mother, Maddie, Estelle and her mother Faye. It begins with the girls as children and immediately portrays their toxic relationships with their mothers and why. Having this in common instantly creates a bond between Junie and Estelle.
The different sections are time jumps that exhibit the character development of both women and how they continuously live and support each other whilst discovering their careers, talents and sexuality.
The book's setting was described so vividly that I felt like I was there. The side characters were all lovable and inspiring.
There are some books where the writing is so beautiful you fall in love with them, and this is definitely one of them. I hope Charlene Knight realises how much of a talented writer she is and I can’t wait to read more of her work. I could not recommend this enough!

Was this review helpful?

Junie lives with her glamorous mother, Maddie in the not so glamorous East End of Vancouver. Maddie is a singer and her voice is magnificent, but her drinking really isn't and her mothering skills less so. Junie learns to find family in her neighbourhood and we watch her grow up in the care of kind teachers and bookstore owners and find her way to becoming an artist and accepting her queer self. This is a novel of multiple voices but Junie's is the beating heart of the book. This is lovely.

Was this review helpful?

Knight pays tribute to Vancouver's East End through the eyes of the eponymous character, an artistic young woman who takes pride in her community. A few of the POV chapters are apportioned to other characters, notably Junie's mother, Maddie. Rather than take away from the story, I found that these character explorations provides even more texture to the hopes and dreams (as well as disappointments and regrets) of Black women in the 1920s and 1930s. Knight's gorgeous prose especially shines when describing the changing relationships among these women, and what it's like to finally learn to stand on your own.

Was this review helpful?

<i>Junie</i> is the story of Junie, a young Black girl growing up in Vancouver in the 1930s. More than that, though, it's a story about mothers and daughters, and how love can change its form.

Knight does a fantastic job of putting the reader right in the middle of the East End of Vancouver; the descriptions are vivid, and it's interesting to see it through the different characters' eyes. The characters themselves are distinct, strong women in their own ways, albeit none of them are perfect. Knight's prose is melodic, beautiful without becoming over-the-top, and it makes for quick, enjoyable reading.

My main critiques apply mostly to the beginning of the novel, when Junie is still a child. She seemed very naive for her age, and while that's not inherently a bad thing, I had a hard time believing she was thirteen and not, say, ten. There were also parts that seemed to be outright stating on the page what Knight was trying to get at; I felt this most with Miss Shirley, although some of the other characters had their moments, too. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it felt heavy-handed enough that it took me out of the story in several places.

Overall, this is a really poignant novel. Knight delivers on all fronts, and there is something for most readers to like here. I'd recommend it for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, feminist or queer fiction, or literary fiction.

Thank you to Book*hug and NetGalley for providing a copy for review.

Was this review helpful?

Characters like Junie get under your skin. You think about them when you’re not reading, you wonder what they’d think or do in a certain situation.

Junie is a young girl growing up in the East End of Vancouver in the 1930s. Through her eyes, the reader learns about the restaurants, shops, and clubs in her neighborhood and the people who run and fill them. The community comes to life through the descriptions of the characters.

Junie and her best friend Estelle navigate the tricky time of adolescence with little help from their mothers. Estelle is often left alone as her ambitious mother, Faye, runs her successful night club on her own. Junie is often the parental figure in her relationship with her mother, Maddie, as Maddie struggles with alcoholism and continually makes poor choices. Neither situation is ideal as reflected, “Junie couldn’t decide which was worse, having your mother see everything you do and scoff, or not being seen at all.”

As the years progress, both girls come into their own. They explore sexuality, passions, and careers with each other and a host of other well-written characters. Junie in particular finds her way through painting. She sums up her difficulties with Maddie by saying: “I don’t paint my mother. I don’t know the colour or shape of loss or breathlessness.”

Coming-of-age story fans will enjoy Junie as well as readers who want to explore the intricacies of mother-daughter relationships.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the first person notes added to the end of each chapter, but other than that it was an engaging read.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

I wanted to fall in love with this book so much but I just felt it fell a little flat.
The frequent, brief switches between third and first person were really interesting and definitely set up the novel in a fascinating form that could have leant itself to a truly compelling new approach to the literary character study -- however, despite how much I loved Junie as a character, I felt that the novel didn't quite commit enough to being either a full character study or a plot driven novel. It feels like a book where things are described happening to Junie but none of the consequences of these are explored in interesting depth. The switches in perspective could have really effectively achieved this, but they just seemed to fall a little short.

Nevertheless, this is a beautifully atmospheric novel and I adored how Knight cultivated a fantastic sense of Vancouver in the 1930s, with a delicate sensitivity to the social dynamics of the time. I loved seeing the acknowledgement of an unapologetically queer young women in the 1930s Black art scene -- yet the art history enthusiast in me just wanted to see this explored a little more and placed into the broader history, for example the influence of the lesbian scene within the Harlem Renaissance.

This is a 3,5 star book for me really, enjoyable but not remarkable. Rounded down to a 3 because a week after reading it, I really don't feel as if much of it has stuck with me -- perhaps I was just looking for something that 'Junie' wasn't intending to be.

Was this review helpful?

--I have received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are purely my own and not influenced in any way.--
This is, above all else, a book about love in all its forms, be it a child's unconditional love for a parent, the love between friends, and the romantic love shared between partners. This is a book about how love is both scary, exhilarating, and can break you when it is unrequited, but it's always there in some way. Love doesn't follow a pattern, it always involves more than one person, and it is absolutely boundless and does not have any sort of pacing: sometimes it moves fast, and sometimes it moves at a snail's pace. This translates a little too well in Junie, where the pacing is really weird at times, there's no real sense of time passing, and we have a few too many character perspectives for any one of them to really stand out or ever feel completely three dimensional. I really wish we just stayed with Junie and her perspective because it's very clear that Ms. Knight poured her heart and soul into this character and some of the most beautiful moments of writing are in Junie's segments. That said, perhaps the most perplexing parts of the book happen in her segments, too: The other perspectives end with essentially a summary of what you just read (which was a little irritating given how short the segments were), but Junie's end in first person. I have absolutely no idea why, it seems like an odd decision, but I got used to it after a while. I call the different character points of view segments because that's really what they seem to be: just a series of vignettes about things that happen that don't really connect with any of the other characters at some indiscriminate time frame. There's no real overarching story, this is more of what I call a "things happen" book: a book where a bunch of things just kind of happen with very little reaction or any real consequences for our main characters. This could be rectified by keeping the story in one or two perspectives instead of five (and the teacher's didn't need to be included at all in my opinion) so we can really get to know our characters better.

I know it seems like I hated this book, but I honestly didn't, those are just some things that stood out. The biggest thing that stood out was the writing. This book is beautifully written without being too flowery or dripping with purple prose. I also really liked the LGBT representation and how Junie just always kind of knew she was different.

Overall, this is a very pretty book in both cover and contents, it's just maybe a little overambitious in how it tells that story.

Was this review helpful?

The pacing in the book was a little off, and I feel like it could have been handled better with the POV switches.
However, the rest of the book was great. The characters were fleshed out, and the story itself was well-done.

It covers some topics that are very close to home for me, so it was hard for me to read at times, but I enjoyed it and that wasn't at any fault of the author's.

Was this review helpful?

well written with an interesting storyline that was really emotive at times and well developed characters. The book deals with some hard hitting issues but it is done sensitively. I wenjoyed it.

Was this review helpful?

This was an interesting book. While it dealt with hard and reflective topics, it was hard to enjoy the book because of the writing style. We rarely were able to see more into a character beyond what was told to us, or what we were encouraged to think. And often, when these realizations were meant to happen, it quickly cut to another's story, leaving that thread hanging. The random switches to first point of view almost felt random as well. I will say though that there was some beauty in this book that comes from what can be assumed to be a poetic background. Perhaps this would've hit harder as a collection of poems rather than an attempt at a story. It also felt towards the end like the storytelling got lazy, and we could no longer hide behind the poetry, and were stuck with a very much "This happened. Character A felt this. Then this happened." I had to force myself to continue at many points. Overall, though, great concept.

I was given an e-ARC an exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

serves as an exploration of the rather complicated nature of the relationship between mothers and daughters. chelene knight expertly details the want a daughter overwhelmingly feels when near her mother, the immediate defence of “she’s a different kind of mama” that shapes you in childhood, and the gradual acceptance in adulthood that whilst they will never change, the love you feel towards them, whilst darkened now, will always remain inside you.

additionally tells the story of what it means to be a black queer woman in a black and immigrant community in 1930s vancouver’s east end. witnessing a young junie begin to understand her feelings about women as opposed to men, the way her world brightens with colour as she accepts these feelings, was heartwarming. the love that enters her life, overdue from her childhood, creates a picture that is worth a thousand words.

junie is an artist. the way her world opens up with colours as she grows, which reflect in her artwork, and then in knight’s writing was masterful. the writing had a sense of lyricism attached to it. the flow, similar to the flow of the river junie once paints, felt at once both easy and soothing. beautiful is the only word that fits the words used, and sentences created, but that feels like an understatement. i fell in love with knight’s craft. i did not know of her before this, but what an introduction this was to her. i doubt she will ever read this, but if she does, i want her to truly understand just how talented she is. never have i ever read writing so beautiful, writing that so easily paints a picture of what and who it is trying to encapsulate. breathtaking at times, the writing will stay with me forever.

some of my favourite quotations, out of many highlighted pages, are as follows:

“Mama wraps her arm around me and pulls me close. She leans in and kisses me on the cheek. The sky’s stars fall into my lap. I wake with a jolt.”

“love. maybe it is honeyed and bright pink in hue. When I paint, I clench love. I hold on to the smallest piece of love and love sticks out from the bottom of my fist. Passersby try to lunge at love, try to steal love from between my small fingers. But oh, I am prepared now. I do not let go of love. I look up at the sky as the bright pink dims to purple then to midnight speckled with white. Glowing eyes. Then I go stargazing. I dip my brush in the paint. I raise my hands to the sky and let love loose.”

“i drink poetry. inhale it. I invent new colours, and I want the whole world to see them. For the first time, I can see the skyline lift above the East End. Beyond the mountains there’s a world bigger than me, and bigger than the tiny yet warm neighbourhood I’ve tethered myself to.”

“i can see my future. It’s not that far away. Maybe just behind the mountains. Or down the street. But I feel the weight of Mama’s palms pushing me into the ground, rooting me there. If I get plucked from the earth, I promise to fling seeds just past the coral ring of the setting sun.”

“The years sail by. I say again, the years sail by. One final gust sparks smoky grey as the last neon light burns out. The bristles of my brush dry into whispers. All my people tip their hats. A long goodbye whistles across the back of my neck.”

ultimately, this book is a love letter to the black lives within it; a celebration of their lives. it was an honour to be welcomed into them.

the publication date is the 13th of september 2022. pre-order this. buy this. add it to your to-read list. love this. share this with friends and family alike. it is worth every penny, and every minute spent reading it.

and finally, thank you to netgalley and book*hug press publications for the arc.

Was this review helpful?