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Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
Short stories

Afterparties

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Anthony Veasna So, on your first book!

by Anthony Veasna So

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Quick take

A sharp, vibrant debut collection about Cambodian Americans trying to carve out a new path in their adopted home.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Acclaim

    Critically acclaimed

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Drug&AlcoholUse

    Drug & alcohol use

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

Synopsis

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.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of suicide and domestic violence.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Afterparties.
Afterparties

THREE WOMEN OF CHUCK’S DONUTS

The first night the man orders an apple fritter, it is three in the morning, the streetlamp is broken, and California Delta mist obscures the waterfront’s run-down buildings, except for Chuck’s Donuts, with its cool fluorescent glow. “Isn’t it a bit early for an apple fritter?” the owner’s twelve-year-old daughter, Kayley, deadpans from behind the counter, and Tevy, four years older, rolls her eyes and says to her sister, “You watch too much TV.”

The man ignores them both, sits down at a booth, and proceeds to stare out the window, at the busted potential of this small city’s downtown. Kayley studies the man’s reflection in the window. He’s older but not old, younger than her parents, and his wiry mustache seems misplaced, from a different decade. His face wears an expression full of those mixed-up emotions that only adults must feel, like plaintive, say, or wretched. His light-gray suit is disheveled, his tie undone.

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Why I love it

The best way to recommend Anthony Veasna So’s Afterparties is to say that the book is so funny and vivid and alive that it’s possible to read it for long stretches without thinking of So’s own story. The son of Cambodian refugees who fled the Khmer Rouge, So died last year, from a drug overdose, at the age of 28. Given the historical circumstances surrounding So’s life—from parents who survived a genocidal regime to his own death amid a global pandemic—you’d think reading Afterparties might be kind of a bummer. But that isn’t the case. So’s book of short stories—which, yes, meditates on genocide and death—brims with surprising humor, buoyed by a knowing levity that some of the worst tragedies are impossible to represent straight.

Afterparties, which So described as a “stoner novel of ideas,” follows an ambling cast of young Cambodian Americans as they move in and out of their hometown of Stockton, California (where So was born). These characters are not the direct victims of the Khmer genocide, but their American-born children who inherit their memories, their stories, their trauma. On the cusp of adulthood, So’s characters also inhabit a more existential limbo—contemplating the future, while trying to mourn the past. What emerges is a collection of startlingly vibrant stories that merge the Cambodian history of a genocidal regime with the everyday American kid follies of getting high, falling in love, and not knowing quite what you’re doing.

Afterparties is a marvel—it’s everything I’ve ever wanted for the descendants of Asian American diaspora who are only just beginning to understand who we are. We’re so lucky to have it.

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Member ratings (1,482)

  • Alexandra F.

    Scottsdale, AZ

    Beautifully written stories of love, trauma, and community. It can be heavy and the characters often difficult, but it is cut with a humor and sarcasm of someone sharing stories about their own family

  • Samantha A.

    West Trenton, NJ

    I am so happy I chose this book! Each short story is its own world. The characters are compelling and I love the narrative voice. These are stories of complicated generational burdens. Read this book!

  • Sarah K.

    Mount Rainier, MD

    The author was gifted and lost too soon. This series of interwoven stories highlights generational trauma within the American-Cambodian community. An important read, shrouded in dark humor and grief.

  • Kristyn K.

    Braintree, MA

    A unique perspective that kept me searching for the ties that connected the stories. The first and last were standouts. Haunting illustrations of how generational trauma and experience are passed on.

  • Laura L.

    Salem, OR

    Got this as an add-on several months back and wish we were able to see more of this author in the future. I’m really loving short stories right now, and this set was interesting and heartbreaking.

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