A vibrant story collection about Cambodian-American life - immersive and comic, yet unsparing - that offers profound insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities
Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.
A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle's snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a "safe space" app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.
The stories in Afterparties, "powered by So's skill with the telling detail, are like beams of wry, affectionate light, falling from different directions on a complicated, struggling, beloved American community" (George Saunders).
Anthony Veasna So (1992-2020) was a graduate of Stanford University and earned his MFA in fiction at Syracuse University. His writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in the New Yorker, The Paris Review n+1, Granta, and ZYZZYVA. A native of Stockton, California, he taught at Colgate University, Syracuse University, and the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants in Oakland, California.
"So (1992-2020) conjures literary magic in his hilarious and insightful posthumous debut, a collection that delves into a tightly knit community of Cambodian-American immigrants in California's Central Valley....After this immersive introduction to the Central Valley community, readers won't want to leave." - Publishers Weekly
"One of the most exciting contributions to Asian American literature in recent years...These stories are funny without being satirical, refreshingly realist, and generous in their levity." - Vulture
"An electrifying, raucous debut collection of stories, Anthony Veasna So's Afterparties feels clandestine and tingly, like a secret told to you by your very best friend--the one who always has the best gossip, and knows how to make you laugh so hard you cry." - Refinery 29
"Remarkable. . . . [So had] a literary career of extraordinary achievement and immense promise. . . . It feels transgressive that Afterparties is so funny, so irreverent, concerning the previous generation's tragedy." - Hua Hsu, The New Yorker
"So lovingly documents his community of 'off-brand Asians with dark skin, ' investing mundane moments of lived life with an extraordinary magic. While reading, you might have to occasionally pause to admire his talent, his supernatural capacity to map a story that hits every note. As you read his stories, you live them, and at their best, you forget who wrote them and why." - Seattle Times
"Witty and soulful stories from a writer who was just getting started . . . . [So] was gregarious, tattooed, queer: a big personality. He radiates in much the same way on the page. . . . [His] stories reimagine and reanimate the Central Valley, in the way that the polyglot stories in Bryan Washington's collection Lot reimagined Houston and Ocean Vuong's novel On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous allowed us to see Hartford in a fresh light." - Dwight Garner, New York Times
"The stories are great fun to read--brimming over with life and energy and comic insight and deep feeling." - Deborah Eisenberg, New York Review of Books
"Marked by sharp wit and overwhelming in the scope of emotions they portray, So's vignettes offer a nuanced and compassionate view of the rich and complex experiences of a group of immigrants who dared to build new lives in an often unforgiving country." - Time magazine
"More than lives up to the initial hype. A series of vignettes documenting the lives and loves of Cambodian-American families in California's Central Valley with warmth, generosity, and irreverent humor, Afterparties showcases So's dazzling prose . . . So's observations on queer life today are particularly incisive. . . . These movingly intimate windows into the immigrant experience leave a powerful imprint." - Vogue