Canadian Writers in Person returns with a reading from Souvankham Thammavongsa’s debut short story collection

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa
How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

If you love meeting talented writers and hearing them read from their published work, or just want to soak up a unique cultural experience, don’t miss the opportunity to attend the Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series, which launches its 2020-21 season on Sept. 22.

The series gives attendees an opportunity to get up close and personal with an eclectic group of 11 authors while having the unique opportunity to engage with them in a dialogue about their work.

Canadian Writers in Person is a for-credit course for students. It is also a free-admission event for members of the public. All readings take place at 7 p.m. on select Tuesday evenings via Zoom. Links for each reading can be found here:

This year’s lineup consists of a unique selection of emerging and established Canadian writers, whose writing explores a broad range of topics and geographical and cultural landscapes. Featuring seasoned and emerging poets and fiction writers, the series highlights Canada’s ever-growing literary talent.

Author Souvankham Thammavongsa will kick off this year’s series on Sept. 22 with a reading of her short story collection, How to Pronounce Knife (McClelland & Stewart).

Thammavongsa is the author of four poetry books and a short story collection. Her stories have won an O. Henry Award and appeared in Harper’s MagazineThe Paris ReviewThe AtlanticGrantaNOONJourney Prize Stories 2016Best American Nonrequired Reading 2018 and O. Henry Prize Stories 2019. She was born in the Lao refugee camp in Nong Khai, Thailand, and was raised and educated in Toronto where she now lives.

Named one of The New York Times’ “7 New Books to Watch Out for in April,” her debut story collection honours characters struggling to find their bearings far from home, even as they do the necessary “grunt work of the world.”

In the title story of How to Pronounce Knife, 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. The stories that make up the collection focus on characters struggling to build lives 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.

Other presentations scheduled in this series are:


Canadian Writers in Person (AP/CLTR 1953 6.0A) is a course offered in the Culture & Expression program in the Department of Humanities in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. For more information on the series, visit, or email Professor Gail Vanstone at or Professor Leslie Sanders at