Souvankham Thammavongsa won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller for her book of short stories How to Pronounce Knife. In a virtual ceremony last night, the Giller Award was delivered to the winner at her home and captured on national television. Her acceptance speech was beautiful and thoughtfully composed: she alluded to the title of her book with this personal story: "Thirty six years ago I went to school and I pronounced the word knife wrong and I didn't get a prize," she said referencing her early education in ESL classes. "But tonight there is one."
Thammavongsa has also won acclaim for her 4 books of poetry, and by being reviewed favourably for her first adventure in fiction in the New York Times. Born in a Lao refugee camp in Thailand, she was raised and now lives in Toronto. The Giller jury wrote: "These stories are vessels of hope, of hurt, of rejection, of loss and of finding one's footing in a new and strange land. Thammavongsa's fiction cuts to the core of the immigrant reality like a knife - however you pronounce it".
Congratulations Souvankham Thammavongsa!