Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, April 2, 2021

“How to Pronounce Knife” - A Short Story by Souvankham Thammavongsa -The Title Story from her Debut Collection.- 2020

 “How to Pronounce Knife” - A Short Story by Souvankham Thammavongsa -The Title Story from her Debut Collection.- 2020

Souvankham Thammavongsa has won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short-story collection, How To Pronounce Knife, her debut work of fiction which examines the immigrant experience.

The Toronto-based author was announced as the latest winner of the award – among the biggest in Canadian literature at $100,000 – during a virtual ceremony on Monday evening, which aired on CBC and streamed online.

“Thank you to my Mom and Dad. Thirty-six years ago, I went to school and I pronounced the word ‘knife’ wrong, and I didn’t get a prize,” Thammavongsa said, after accepting the hand-crafted glass award that was delivered to her front door during the ceremony.

“But tonight, there is one. Thank you.”

How to Pronounce Knife, published by McClelland & Stewart, is a “stunning collection of stories that portray the immigrant experience in achingly beautiful prose,” the jury wrote of the winning book.

“The emotional expanse chronicled in this collection is truly remarkable. These stories are vessels of hope, of hurt, of rejection, of loss and finding one’s footing in a new and strange land.” - from

Today’s story, “How to Pronounce Knife” is The fourth Short Story by Souvankham Thammavongsa upon which I have posted. Along with rest of The Short Story World, i have fallen Under her spell, enthralled by her stories centering on Life experiences of Laotian  immigrants in Canada. The central characters are sometimes children in elementary schools or women largely alone.  Back home, The immigrants had good positions, secure and respected.  Now they work at mindless factory jobs struggling to support their famlies.

English is naturally one of big challenges, the children often Help their parents.  In School. A Young girl fails to get a Prize because she does not know The “K” in knife is Silent.  We see her father, trying to maintain Family leadership, teaching her to pronounce The word as if The K was active. He reasons why would it be in the word just to be Silent.  We see The Young girl struggling to do well in school.

In several stories we Will see How Laotian women use The interest native born men have in them to get further along. We see the strain on marriages.

Souvankham Thammavongsa - was born in a Laotian refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and was raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry, and her fiction has appeared in Harper’s Magazine, Granta, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, The Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and The O. Henry Prize Stories 2019.- first appearance. I am very high on her work and plan to post on all Her Short Stories in How to Pronounce Knife, her debut 


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Marianne said...

I'm not a big fan of short stories but this sounds fascinating. As a foreigner who learned English in school at age 10, I can see the struggles those immigrants have. English is not an easy language to learn, even if everyone wants to tell us.

I'm interested in reading this. Thanks.

Buried In Print said...

One of my favourites. I just love this one. Have you ever been able to find Madeleine Thien's short fiction or novels? I feel sure, given your response to Thammavongsa's voice and themes, that you would love her too. Her stories are Simple Recipes. Her most easily accessible novel is Do Not Say We Have Nothing (more overtly political).