August 2021 Indie Next List
“These stories of the members of a compact Cambodian-American community, from the refugees to the business owners to the gay teenagers, seamlessly balance humor with hardships.”
— Sofia Silva Wright, Phoenix Books Burlington, Burlington, VT
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A Roxane Gay's Audacious Book Club Pick!
Named a Best Book of Summer by: Wall Street Journal * Thrillist * Vogue * Lit Hub * Refinery29 * New York Observer * The Daily Beast * Time * BuzzFeed * Entertainment Weekly
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).
About the Author
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.
"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
"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
"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
“Afterparties is a bittersweet triumph for a fresh voice silenced too soon. . . . A smart, compassionate take on the push-pull of growing up first-generation Cambodian American. . . . [So's] voice is so alive--smart, flip, rude, sexually explicit, and compassionate. . . . [The] freshness is derived not only from So's style as a writer, but from the nuanced perspective of his ultra-intersectional identity."
— Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
"Afterparties insists on a prismatic understanding of Cambodian American diaspora through stories that burst with as much compassion as comedy, making us laugh just when we’re on the verge of crying."
— Washington Post
"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
"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."
— Harper’s Bazaar
"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."
"An electric debut from new literary talent Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties zooms in on the complexities of growing up as the children of Cambodian refugees in California. With a surprising blend of biting wit and raw emotion, So stitches together tales of immigration, identity, queerness, and violence in a collection as bright and breathtaking as its cover."
“Luminous . . . With profane wit and ruthless honesty, the book explores what it is to be young, brown, and queer in a world that so often prefers to see Asians as the model minority, or not at all: A convenience store manager tries to recapture the badminton glories of his youth in early standout ‘Superking Son Scores Again’; an off-the-rails wedding party becomes a chance for two brothers, whipsawed by addiction and mistrust, to make their way warily back to each other.”
— Entertainment Weekly (Critic's Pick)