Featuring ​stories that have appeared in Harper’s, Granta, and The Paris Review, this revelatory debut collection from O. Henry Award winner Souvankham Thammavongsa establishes her as an essential new voice in Canadian and world literature.

With these startling stories, Souvankham Thammavongsa paints an indelible portrait of immigrants and refugees caught between cultures, languages, and values, and struggling to find their bearings far from home, even as they do the necessary “grunt work of the world.” In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she immerses us in the lives of watchful children, lovelorn men, and restless women, illuminating their hopes, heartbreaks, acts of defiance, willingness to laugh at themselves, and, above all, their pursuit of a place to make their own.
After a boxer loses his dream of becoming a championship fighter, he finds an unexpected chance at redemption while working at his sister’s nail salon. A daughter becomes an unwilling accomplice in her mother’s growing infatuation with country singer Randy Travis. When a seventy-year-old woman begins a relationship with her much younger neighbour, her assumptions about the limits of love unravel. As he watches his wife gradually drift into an affair with her boss, a school bus driver must grapple with what he’s willing to give up in order to belong. And in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize-shortlisted title story, a young girl’s unconditional love for her father transcends the fickleness of language.
Told with tenderness, wry humour, and an unflinching eye for the sometimes absurd realities of having to start your life over again, How to Pronounce Knife announces Thammavongsa as one of the most striking voices of her generation.

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