A young man painting nails at the local salon. A woman plucking feathers at a chicken processing plant. A father who packs furniture to move into homes he''ll never afford. A housewife learning English from daytime soap operas. In her stunning Giller Prize-winning debut book of fiction, Souvankham Thammavongsa focuses on characters struggling to make a living, illuminating their hopes, disappointments, love affairs, acts of defiance, and above all their pursuit of a place to belong. In spare, intimate prose charged with emotional power and a sly wit, she paints an indelible portrait of watchful children, wounded men, and restless women caught between cultures, languages, and values. As one of Thammavongsa''s characters says, "All we wanted was to live." And in these stories, they do—brightly, ferociously, unforgettably.
A daughter becomes an unwilling accomplice in her mother''s growing infatuation with country singer Randy Travis. A former boxer finds a chance at redemption while working at his sister''s nail salon. A school bus driver must grapple with how much he''s willing to give up in order to belong. And in the title story, a young girl''s unconditional love for her father transcends language.
Tender, uncompromising, and fiercely alive, How to Pronounce Knife establishes Souvankham Thammavongsa as one of the most important voices of her generation.