How to Pronounce Knife
WINNER OF THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
‘Powerhouses of feeling and depth’ Mary Gaitskill
‘Sharp and vital’ Daisy Johnson
An ex-boxer turned nail salon worker falls for a pair of immaculate hands; a mother and daughter harvest earthworms in the middle of the night; a country music-obsessed housewife abandons her family for fantasy; and a young girl’s love for her father transcends language. In this stunning debut, Souvankham Thammavongsa captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees in a nameless city, illuminating hopes, disappointments, love affairs, and above all, the pursuit of a place to belong
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, by Souvankham Thammavongsa is one of those books * Elle * Spellbinding ... A perfect marriage of style and refreshing, surprising substance. Like her characters, Thammavongsa possesses x-ray vision for teetering power structures and those who sit precariously at the top of them. But her writing goes beyond this. It actively, though quietly, works against the invisibility or erasure of migrants living and trying to make a living in the margins. * i * Impressive ... Thammavongsa's spare, rigorous stories are preoccupied with themes of alienation and dislocation, her characters burdened by the sense of existing unseen ... Thammavongsa's gift for the gently absurd means the stories never feel dour or predictable ... It is when the characters' sense of alienation follows them home, into the private space of the family, that Thammavongsa's stories most wrench the heart * New York Times Book Review * The stories are slender, spare, and slide between your ribs like a super-sharp blade, fast and soundless, before you realize what's happening * Vanity Fair * [Souvankham Thammavongsa's] poignant, affecting debut collection conversationally captures the everyday lives of immigrants and refugees who have moved to the city in the hope of better lives * Daily Mail * In this touching debut, the Thailand-born, Toronto-raised author captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees in a nameless city with universal hopes, disappointments, love affairs, and a desire to belong ... stand-out * Cosmopolitan * This series of short stories brings to life figures that might otherwise not figure on the literary radar ... with enough panache to keep the reader gripped throughout * Vogue * [Thammavongsa] captures the day-to-day lives of immigrants and refugees exploring family relationships, escape from the real world and the love that binds us all * Stylist * [Thammavongsa's] careful dissection of everyday moments of racism, classism and sexism exposes how power and privilege drive success, how work shapes the immigrant identity, and how erasure and invisibility lead to isolation * Washington Post * Exacting, sharply funny short fictions * Oprah Magazine * 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 * 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 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 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 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 Thammavongsa's radiant debut collection of short stories is full of precarity, strength, uncertainty, messiness and life * Ms. Magazine * The stories here will gut you, as Thammavongsa's insight proves to be razor-sharp * Bustle *
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