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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories por…
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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories (edição 2020)

por Souvankham Thammavongsa (Autor)

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
2111899,004 (3.84)47
Membro:Judebird
Título:How to Pronounce Knife: Stories
Autores:Souvankham Thammavongsa (Autor)
Informação:McClelland & Stewart (2020), 192 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
Avaliação:****
Etiquetas:My Canadian library, short stories, Giller 2020 winner, immigrant, narrative, Thai, Laos, gift from Brenda

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How to Pronounce Knife: Stories por Souvankham Thammavongsa

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The 14 stories in this collection present a moving portrait of the immigrant experience. Like the author, most of the central characters are Laotian immigrants, and they are struggling to find their place in their new homelands. Many, like the retired boxer in "Mani Pedi," are out of their element in more ways than one. Unable to find work, he mans a station at his sister's nail salon. Two children experience Halloween for the first time. A mother and daughter take jobs at a worm farm. A housewife becomes enamored of Randy Travis. In the title story, a little girl dreads being called upon to read aloud in class. All of these characters are struggling to survive, and many have left behind not only their familiar country but also lovers, spouses, parents, children, their dreams, and their dignity. There are moments of joy and passages that will make you smile, if not laugh, but also much sadness and disappointment. I found the author's spare style well-suited to these stories, and the collection as a whole shed light on those clinging to the margins of society, looking for a way in. ( )
  Cariola | Jul 19, 2021 |
The fourteen stories in Souvankham Thammavongsa’s first collection of short fiction are narrated in terse, economical prose largely shorn of lyrical embellishment. It is prose that thrusts hard and deep, its emotional impact landing with little to cushion the blow. The majority of Thammavongsa’s stories revolve around the immigrant experience: the aspirations, disappointments, the blunt-force strategies for survival that people are compelled to adopt in the struggle to adjust to unfamiliar, confusing, sometimes hostile environments. The title story, which opens the collection, describes the struggle of a school-age Laotian child to learn English. Because his wisdom is unquestioned (he is “the only one in their home who knew how to read”), she consults her father about the puzzling word “knife.” But the advice he provides is flawed, and she is humiliated in class. After this experience she sees him with new eyes, recognizing his limitations and realizing that a lonely, gruelling struggle awaits her. In “Paris,” Red, an immigrant, works shiftwork at a chicken plant and is careful to never be late. Believing herself ugly, she’s convinced that if she could only get a nose job her boss Tommy would treat her differently, and her chances for advancement would improve. But when she witnesses the shabby manner in which Tommy treats his stunningly beautiful wife, she realizes that altering her looks to conform to a glamorous ideal will accomplish nothing: “The only love Red knew was that simple, uncomplicated, lonely love one feels for oneself in the quiet moments of the day.” In “Mani Pedi,” Raymond, a failed boxer, defeated and out of options, accepts a job at his sister’s nail salon. The sister is a hard-nosed realist who had to fight for everything she has. But even in the face of her constant rebukes and unrelenting cynicism, Raymond refuses to relinquish his dreams. And in “Edge of the World,” the daughter of Laotian immigrants looks back with an aching heart to the time when her mother abandoned her. Now in her forties, she is able to see that her mother had been unable to adapt to life in a new country. Lonely and hopeless, the young woman had one day packed a suitcase and walked away, leaving her bewildered husband and helpless daughter behind. The narrator allows herself to imagine the depths of the despair that must have taken hold in order to drive her mother to such an extreme. But she is not resentful. Yes, the loss has marked her, left a gaping wound, an emotional void that she’s been unable to fill, but it also toughened her for the life she has had to live. Thammavongsa’s stories zero in on moments like this, when a character attains a stark or painful realization: that despite the hopes and dreams that refugees carry with them to a new country—despite their best efforts, years of sacrifice and valiant, honest striving—life in the real world is brutal and unfair and comes with no guarantee that the sacrifice will be rewarded. Thammavongsa’s poignant, powerful stories speak openly of this blunt, unadulterated truth. ( )
  icolford | Jun 23, 2021 |
I am naturally drawn to stories of immigration. How could it be different?

In this collection of short stories, we can not avoid empathizing with the feeling of not belonging; the hardship of navigating a strange culture and language. One has a feeling that many of the stories are autobiographical, or at least based in very personal experiences of the author. Some stories carry a common thread beyond the experience of immigration, of absent mothers or fathers; of immigration either destroying or strengthening family bounds. Other stories carry a strong sexual tension. Overall a very even set of short-stories, written with an economy of words, but very intimate and personal.

I look forward to reading more from Souvankham Thammvongsa. ( )
  RosanaDR | Apr 15, 2021 |
Some better than others but all interesting ( )
  SBG1962 | Mar 12, 2021 |
Sorry Giller judges. This was a DNF for me. I got about 1/2 way through this very short book of short stories, and closed the book. I just couldn't read anymore. I've been noticing that I haven't been enjoying the newer Giller Prize books as much as I loved the first 15 or 20 of them, as I have made a point to read them all. I am not a person that usually reads short stories but I thought I should attempt to read this newest winner. Very disappointed, and I certainly don't recommend the book. ( )
  Romonko | Feb 23, 2021 |
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