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Reader 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)."

"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

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

Thammavongsa writes with deep precision, wide-open spaces, and quiet, cool,
emotionally devastating poise. There is not a moment off in these affecting

"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

"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)

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

"These stories feel simple, but they move within you
and it is impossible to let them go. They are sharp and vital. Thammavongsa is
a master over the sentence."—DAISY JOHNSON, author of EVERYTHING UNDER

and elegant. . . These brief stories pack a punch,
punctuated by direct prose that's full of acute observations...This is a potent

radiant debut collection of short stories is full of precarity, strength,
uncertainty, messiness and life."—MS. MAGAZINE

"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

"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

"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)

"Every once in a while you come across a book with writing so
breathtaking that you take note of the author so you can read everything they
ever write in the future. How to
Pronounce Knife
is one of those books."—ELLE Canada

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How to Pronounce Knife

How to Pronounce Knife


Spare, unsentimental, and distilled to riveting essentials, these “emotionally devastating” stories honor the surreal, funny, and often wrenching realities of trying to build a life far from home (Sheila Heti).
In the title story of Souvankham Thammavongsa’s debut collection, a young girl brings a book home from school and asks her father 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 stories that make up How to Pronounce Knife focus 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 at a chicken processing plant. A mother coaches her daughter in the challenging art of worm harvesting.
In a taut, visceral prose style that establishes her as one of the most striking and assured voices of her generation, Thammavongsa interrogates what it means to make a living, to work, and to create meaning.
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Genre: Fiction / Fiction / Short Stories (single Author)

On Sale: April 21st 2020

Price: $26

Page Count: 192

ISBN-13: 9780316422130

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