Updated: Sep 2, 2022
We recommend perusing these links to get additional context about the book, the author, and the themes of the book. Spoilers ahead, though!
Migration Policy Institute: The Foreign-Born Hmong in the United States
Minnesota PBS: The Cia, The Hmong, And The Secret War
The LA Review of Books: Review: How To Pronounce Knife By Souvankham Thammavongsa
These are from Hachette Book Group
Many of the stories have main characters who are not named and others who are but then their names end up changing. What is the value of a name? How do you feel about a character that is not named?
Work is an important theme in this collection. Have you worked a job you were terrific at, but no one noticed, or did you have a job you loved but others didn’t see the value of the work?
The stories often refer to the setting as simply “here.” Why do you think the author did this with the setting of a story?
Sound is important in many of these stories. The silent letter at the front in the word knife, the voice of a mother in a dream, the way sound lasts only for a short while and disappears, or how sounds can often stand in for meaning. Why is sound a concern in these stories?
In the Audiobook, “Edge of the World” is narrated by a male voice. Does this change the meaning of the story for you, and how?
Many of these stories are told from the point of a view of a child or what we learn in the end is an adult recalling a story. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing this?
These stories feel real, yet we are told they are fiction. Does it matter to you to know what the real story is behind them or if they come or do not come from the author’s real life? Do you think such knowing could take away the magic of not knowing?
There are many meanings of laughter. List and discuss the descriptions of laughter in this story collection. Why do you think the author took such care with this?
Love is an important feeling and theme. Love of family, romantic love, love when it’s failed, and love of self. Discuss the ways in which the characters love or lose their love. Which love story in the collection were you most moved by? Discuss.