How to Pronounce Knife: Stories

By Souvankham Thammavongsa

Pre-Order   Ships April 21st

Description

Spare, unsentimental, and distilled to riveting essentials, these stories honor the surreal, funny, and often wrenching realities of trying to build a life far from home.
In the title story of Souvankham Thammavongsa's debut collection, a young girl brings a book home from school and asks her father, the only adult in the family who can read English, to help her pronounce a tricky word, a simple exchange with unforgettable consequences. Thammavongsa is a master at homing in on moments like this -- moments of exposure, dislocation, and messy feeling that push us right up against the limits of language.
The taut, visceral stories that make up How to Pronounce Knifefocus on characters struggling to find their bearings in unfamiliar territory, or shuttling between idioms, cultures, and values. A failed boxer discovers what it truly means to be a champion when he starts painting nails at his sister's salon. A young woman tries to discern the invisible but immutable social hierarchies that govern relationships at a chicken processing plant. A mother coaches her daughter in the challenging art of worm harvesting. Charging her clear, direct sentences with immense power, Thammavongsa interrogates what it means to make a living, both in the sense of work and in the sense of creating meaning and identity in precarious circumstances.
Aiming its penetrating gaze at brutality and tenderness, revulsion and arousal, pain and laughter alike, How to Pronounce Knifeestablishes Thammavongsa as one of the most striking and assured voices of her generation.

Product Details

Price: $26.00  $23.40
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Published Date: April 21, 2020
Pages: 192
ISBN: 9780316422130
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in the Lao 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, Granta, the Paris Review, Ploughshares, Best American Non-Required Reading 2018, and the O. Henry Prize Stories 2019.

Reviews

"These poignant and deceptively quiet stories are powerhouses of feeling and depth; How to Pronounce Knife is an artful blend of simplicity and sophistication."--MARY GAITSKILL, author of VERONICA and SOMEBODY WITH A LITTLE HAMMER
"I love these stories. There's some fierce and steady activity in all of the sentences-something that makes them live, and makes them shift a little in meaning when you look at them again and they look back at you (or look beyond you)."
--HELEN OYEYEMI, author of WHAT IS NOT YOURS IS NOT YOURS and GINGERBREAD
"Souvankham Thammavongsa writes with deep precision, wide-open spaces, and quiet, cool, emotionally devastating poise. There is not a moment off in these affecting stories."--SHEILA HETI, author of HOW SHOULD A PERSON BE and MOTHERHOOD
"How to Pronounce Knife is a book of unusual ferocity and grace. Souvankham Thammavongsa carefully unpacks the aches and aspirations of immigrant and refugee life in tight, commanding prose; and these subtle yet shattering stories glow with empathy, humor, and wisdom."--MIA ALVAR, author of IN THE COUNTRY
"Sharp and elegant. . . These brief stories pack a punch, punctuated by direct prose that's full of acute observations...This is a potent collection."--PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
"Reading Souvankham Thammavongsa's How to Pronounce Knife is like finding, at last, a part of you that you had lost and had been searching for all this time. Not since the stories of Edward P. Jones have I encountered such a unified and yet wide-ranging vision-both geographically and emotionally-that captures the spirit of not only a community but of the greater world-then, now, the future. This is a book full of powerful resilience, great journeys, and above all else: fierce, heart-wrenching love."--PAUL YOON, author of SNOW HUNTERS
"How to Pronounce Knife is a masterful collection, written with so much veracity, you'll swear every word is true. Thammavongsa's prose is spare, the images she evokes so crystalline, they require no embellishment. Here is life, rendered with precision and insight. Instantly recognizable. She offers sharp sensory details, piercing imagery, endings that will punch you in the gut and leave you yearning for more."
--SHARON BALA, author THE BOAT PEOPLE, winner of the Harper Lee Prize
"How to Pronounce Knife is a riveting, subversive collection that alights within us like a shock to the system. I find it miraculous - and liberating and joyful - that language so radiantly exact can be so raw, so brazen. This is a major work and a lasting one."--MADELEINE THIEN, author of DO NOT SAY WE HAVE NOTHING
"How to Pronounce Knife is a book of rarest beauty and power. Souvankham Thammavongsa has already earned a devoted readership for her poetry. And in each of these exquisitely crafted stories, we experience the profound emotional effects of economy and distillation. We feel the reverberating energy around each judiciously placed word. This is one of the great short story collections of our time. Do not miss it."--DAVID CHARIANDY, author of BROTHER and I'VE BEEN MEANING TO TELL YOU
"These stories, written in a spare, distant register, twist the heart; Thammavongsa captures in a few well-chosen words how it feels for immigrant children to protect their parents. Moving, strange, and occasionally piercing."--KIRKUS
"These stories have a quiet brilliance in their raw portrayal of the struggle to find meaning in difficult times and to belong in a foreign place. Thammavongsa writes with an elegance that is both brutal and tender, giving her stories and their characters a powerful voice."--BOOKLIST (Starred Review)
"Thammavongsa's radiant debut collection of short stories is full of precarity, strength, uncertainty, messiness and life."--MS. MAGAZINE
"In under 200 pages, Canadian poet Thammavongsa showcases 14 spectacular stories in her fiction debut...a poignant, eyes-wide-open exploration...pristine short fiction-think Paul Yoon, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Phil Klay."--LIBRARY JOURNAL (Starred Review)