How to Pronounce Knife

by Chandra Sundeep
How to Pronounce Knife is an anthology of short stories written by Souvankham Thammavongsa.

How to Pronounce Knife is an anthology of short stories written by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It is the Winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist for the 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award, The Pen America Open Book Award, and the Danuta Gleed Award. Trillium Book Award has recently announced it as one of 2021 finalists.

Written in a simple language, the stories are insightful glimpses of the trials and tribulations faced by immigrants from Laos. They dream of assimilation and acceptance. They put in their best efforts to adopt to the new culture but life as a refugee is extremely demanding, and requires a lot of sacrifice.

Thammavongsa has addressed a multitude of issues in this book—poverty, racism, familial ties, cultural shift, identity confusion, and adaptation. She brings these sad, painful and happy stories to the reader in an effortless yet impactful manner.

 How to pronounce knife, and You are so embarrassing are deeply emotional. Randy Travis, and Edge of the World revolve around mothers who are struggling to fit in, and do their best for the sake of their children. Chick-A-Chee is my favorite story in this short collection. Slingshot is an interesting portrayal of a 70 plus woman in a sexual relationship with a man four decades her junior.

This is my first book about Lao people. Though it doesn’t give much insight into their culture and customs, the author successfully builds an empathy towards the immigrants. However, the stories are too short and there is a limited scope to build any kind of attachment with the characters. Even though the stories seem disjointed, they are fragments of everyday life of immigrants.


Wordsopedia Rating 3.5/5

Title: How to Pronounce Knife Author: Souvankham Thammavongsa
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company Publication date: April 21, 2020
Genre: Fiction—Literary Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780316422130 No. of Pages: 192

Buy your copy here at Amazon

About the Author

Souvankham Thammavongsa is the author of four acclaimed poetry books, and the short story collection HOW TO PRONOUNCE KNIFE, winner of the 2020 Scotiabank Giller prize, finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and PEN/America Open Book Award, out now with McClelland & Stewart (Canada), Little, Brown (U.S.), and Bloomsbury (U.K.), available in French, with foreign rights sold in China, Korea, and Turkey. Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Granta, and NOON. Thammavongsa is a judge for the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize. She was born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand and was raised and educated in Toronto.

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