Excerpt from Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So , plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Anthony Veasna So

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna  So X
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna  So
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 272 pages

    Jun 2022, 288 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Being Khmer, as far as Tevy can tell, can't be reduced to the brown skin, black hair, and prominent cheekbones that she shares with her mother and sister. Khmer-ness can manifest as anything, from the color of your cuticles to the particular way your butt goes numb when you sit in a chair too long, and even so, Tevy has recognized nothing she has ever done as being notably Khmer. And now that she's old enough to disavow her lying cheater of a father, Tevy feels completely detached from what she was apparently born as. Unable to imagine what her father felt as he stood in Chuck's Donuts sniffing fish sauce, she can only laugh. Even now, when she can no longer stomach seeing him, she laughs when she thinks about her father.

Tevy carries little guilt about her detachment from her culture. At times, though, she feels overwhelmed, as if her thoughts are coiling through her brain, as if her head will explode. This is what drives her to join Kayley in the pursuit of discovering all there is to know about the man.

ONE NIGHT, Kayley decides that the man is the spitting image of her father. It's unreal, she argues. "Just look at him," she mutters, changing the coffee filters in the industrial brewers. "They have the same chin. Same hair. Same everything."

Sothy, placing fresh donuts in the display case, responds, "Be careful with those machines."

"Dumbass," Tevy hisses, refilling the canisters of cream and sugar. "Don't you think Mom would've noticed by now if he looked like Dad?"

By this point, Sothy, Tevy, and Kayley have grown accustomed to the man's presence, aware that on any given night he might appear sometime between midnight and four. The daughters whisper about him, half hoping that where he sits is out of earshot, half hoping he'll overhear them. Kayley speculates about his motives: if he's a police officer on a stakeout, say, or a criminal on the run. She deliberates over whether he's a good man or a bad one. Tevy, on the other hand, theorizes about the man's purpose—if, for example, he feels detached from the world and can center himself only here, in Chuck's Donuts, around other Khmer people. Both sisters wonder about his life: the kind of women he attracts and has dated; the women he has spurned; whether he has siblings, or kids; whether he looks more like his mother or his father.

Sothy ignores them. She is tired of thinking about other people, especially these customers from whom she barely profits.

"Mom, you see what I'm seeing, right?" Kayley says, to no response. "You're not even listening, are you?"

"Why should she listen to you?" Tevy snaps.

Kayley throws her arms up. "You're just being mean because you think the man is hot," she retorts. "You basically said so yesterday. You're like this gross person who thinks her dad is hot, only now you're taking it out on me. And he looks just like Dad, for your information. I brought a picture to prove it." She pulls a photograph from her pocket and holds it up with one hand.

Bright red sears itself onto Tevy's cheeks. "I did not say that," she states, and, from across the counter, she tries to snatch the photo from Kayley, only to succeed in knocking an industrial coffee brewer to the ground.

Hearing metal parts clang on the ground and scatter, Sothy finally turns her attention to her daughters. "What did I tell you, Kayley!" she yells, her entire face tense with anger.

"Why are you yelling at me? This is her fault!" Kayley gestures wildly toward her sister. Tevy, seeing the opportunity, grabs the photo. "Give that back to me," Kayley demands. "You don't even like Dad. You never have."

And Tevy says, "Then you're contradicting yourself, aren't you?" Her face still burning, she tries to recapture an even, analytical tone. "So which is it? Am I in love with Dad or do I, like, hate him? You are so stupid. I wasn't saying the man was hot, anyway. I just pointed out that he's not, like, ugly."

Excerpted from Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So . Copyright © 2021 by Anthony Veasna So . Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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