How to Pronounce Knife

How to Pronounce Knife

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.

Title:How to Pronounce Knife
ISBN:9780316422130
Format Type:

    How to Pronounce Knife Reviews

  • Michael

    A quiet and understated debut collection, How to Pronounce Knife thoughtfully explores the inner lives of Laos immigrants and their children. The stories focus mostly on women and are wide ranging in ...

  • Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

    2.5 starsI did not hate this book. Some of the stories promised so much goodness. There was one about Randy Travis that was probably my favorite. The problem was I just expected more. I'm always prett...

  • Zoeytron

    Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.I couldn't find my bliss with this collection of short stories.  They may have been a trifle nuanced for me.  Neither quirky nor twisted, no ja...

  • David

    It's a short story collection that brings together the worm pickers, nail technicians, bus drivers and farm workers at the edges of society. New immigrants creating space for themselves while struggli...

  • Hannah

    I enjoyed these stories a lot with their thoughtful explorations on families, focussing on the lives of Laos immigrants and their children. I particularly enjoyed that the parents depicted really do t...

  • Blair

    I read a lot; I've been writing reviews for nearly ten years now. And inevitably, in any given year, there'll be a handful of books I find myself with little to say about. There's absolutely nothing I...

  • The Artisan Geek

    6/3/20A great collection in which Thammavongsa showcases so many aspects of the immigrant experience: the good, the bad, the pain, the beautiful. Would definitely recommend.28/2/20Found it during one ...

  • Faith

    This is a collection of short stories about Laotian Americans. They are written in a very straight forward, unembellished manner. Some are quite short and none of them has any real resolution. They ar...

  • Rachel Len

    What an impressive debut! The writing is razor sharp, the stories ranging from poignant to delightful. I especially loved “Randy Travis” and “You Are So Embarrassing,” but there wasn’t a sto...

  • jenny?

    I was very excited for this collection because I'd previously read Thammavongsa's poetry, Light, for a first-year English course—and I absolutely adored its poignant ferocity, its delicate beauty.Un...