Souvankham Thammavongsa wins $10,000 Trillium Book Award for “How to Pronounce Knife”

Toronto’s Souvankham Thammavongsa has won the $ 10,000 Trillium Book Award for her debut novel “How to Pronounce Knife.” The Best Book in English prize was one of four awards given out in a virtual ceremony that honours the best books by Ontario writers in both French and English.

For the second year in a row the awards ceremony was held virtually — taking the place of the gala usually held at the Toronto Reference Library downtown.

This is the second big win for Thammavongsa for her debut novel, which also won the 2020 Giller Prize of $ 100,000 and was a finalist for the PEN America Open Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award, among others.

In an earlier piece about the finalists published in the Toronto Star, Thammavongsa noted that she grew up in Toronto near the corner of Keele Street and Eglinton Avenue West. “My characters are not humiliated or ashamed or embarrassed when they don’t know the English language because that is my experience and the area I grew up in. I wasn’t interested in fitting in. I am proud of who I am and where I come from because everyone around me is too.”

Overall, there were 16 finalists over the four categories, with separate jury panels for each award. The three other winners were:

  • Danièle Vallée, “Sept nuits dans la vie de Chérie” (Éditions David) for Best Book in French
  • Jody Chan, “sick” (Black Lawrence Press) for Poetry in English
  • Éric Mathieu, “Capitaine Boudu et les enfants de la Cédille” (Éditions L’Interligne) for Children’s Literature (French)

Each of the winners receives $ 10,000, with their publishers receiving $ 2,000 to promote the books.

The Trillium Book Award was established in 1987 by the Ontario government with the aim of recognizing literary excellence and the diversity of Ontario writers and writing in both English and French. The award is open to books in any genre, which makes for a rich, diverse range of fiction and non-fiction winning titles.