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Souvankham Thammavongsa wins $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize for debut short-story collection

Souvankham Thammavongsa

Souvankham Thammavongsa

Seated on her living-room sofa with friends, Souvankham Thammavongsa found out she had won the $100,000 Scotiabank Giller Prize on Nov. 9 for her debut short-story collection How to Pronounce Knife (McClelland & Stewart). The authors broadcast from home for the annual gala, hosted by actor Eric McCormack.

In her acceptance speech, the Toronto poet – whose first collection was published by Beth Follett at Pedlar Press – noted she is the author of five books, and thanked small presses for their support. She also thanked her editor Anita Chong, cheekily commenting, “Not bad for two girls who were in ESL.” In a takeover of the Giller Twitter account on Thursday, Nov. 12, Thammavongsa tweeted the quote alongside the rallying cry, “ESL students and teachers UNITE!”

The remaining Giller finalists will each receive $10,000. The list features Gil Adamson’s Ridgerunner (House of Anansi Press), David Bergen’s Here The Dark (Biblioasis), Shani Mootoo’s Polar Vortex (Book*hug Press), and Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel (HarperCollins).

How to Pronounce Knife was also listed by Q&Q as one of the 2020 Books of the Year. On Thursday, Time magazine named it in its 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 package.