Souvankham Thammavongsa

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Souvankham Thammavongsa, How to Pronounce Knife

Souvankham Thammavongsa was born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and raised and educated in Toronto. She is the award-winning author of four books of poetry; 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.

How to Pronounce Knife was named one of The New York Times’ “7 New Books to Watch Out for in April.” This revelatory debut story collection honors characters struggling to find their bearings far from home, even as they do the necessary “grunt work of the world.


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Childhood PhotoI grew up in a home without books and whenever I saw a bookshelf I would ask my parents to take a photograph of me in front of one like people do on their vacations. I just wanted something I made to be there too. Now, other people are taking photographs of themselves with something I wrote!
I write a lot in my head these days and what I am writing stays in there. This is a view of what I saw this morning and where my head was at. It is one of the ugliest buildings in Toronto, but I have an affection for it. I think it is supposed to be a cow and the crayons are its udders. You know, art students…
Childhood Favorite Books
I like only one. The Velveteen Rabbit. I love the idea that when you love someone, you make them real.

I know what it’s like to try to learn a language all by myself and to get it wrong and to have no one to ask if I am doing the right thing. I know what it’s like to work a job nobody wants, to do good work, and to be passed over or not be noticed and valued. I know what it is like to watch someone with a sadness they can’t see. But it doesn’t matter what I know or see – can I get a reader to feel that, to know and to see that too?

First Blood
First Blood. The writing is quite terrific. The first movie has more depth in the Rambo series because it came from a book (well, in my opinion). Also, it’s really difficult to describe trees for so many pages!

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