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Reviews of Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Afterparties

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

    Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

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).

This is the full text of the first story in Anthony Veasna So's 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...

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  • award image

    National Book Critics Circle Awards
    2021

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

"Human Development" is the collection's standout, a carefully constructed renunciation of the trope of the model minority. Afterparties ends with a fraught story of survival that considers the way tragedy can be appropriated by outsiders who try to center themselves in a loss that is not theirs. Anthony Veasna So died in December 2020 at the age of 28, eight months before the publication of Afterparties. On the one hand, it is impossible not to mourn the enormous loss of potential in terms of the other books So might have written. On the other, one gets the sense that this collection is a perfect distillation of that potential, that there is a unique synchronicity between the author's brain and what's on the page...continued

Full Review (797 words)

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

Buzzfeed
[The stories are] gloriously alive, full of humor, intelligence and quiet heartbreak…The force of So's talent is the clear throughline throughout this book.

Elle
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.

Entertainment Weekly
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.

Literary Hub
This is a collection that will stop you in your tracks...Afterparties feels like its own complete place, with loosely linked stories and side characters disappearing from the pages only to resurface center-stage in the next piece; it's a neighborhood you come to know and love.

Harper's Bazaar
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.

New York Times
[W]itty and sharply expressed short stories...The author is at his best when he has a lot of plates spinning. A few of the quieter stories struggle to leave an impression. He deftly shuffles some of the same characters in and out of stories...So's stories reimagine and reanimate the Central Valley.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
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...What makes the stories so startling is the characters' ability to embrace life and all its messy beauty despite the darkness of the past.

Author Blurb Bryan Washington, author of Memorial
The sheer richness and energy of So's narratives can't be overstated—his characters are full of love, and full of longing, and full of laughter, and full of the possibilities that life offers them and also the ones it hides. It's rare and magical and wild to find queer life, as it's actually lived, on the page—or on any pages—with all its multiplicities and creases and paradoxes and curves, and yet So lays it out for us, sparing nothing and giving everything. I was in awe through the entire collection—and you will be, too. Afterparties is an actual marvel.

Author Blurb Douglas Stewart, author of Shuggie Bain
A bright and fearless debut, full of heart, joy, and unforgettable characters.

Author Blurb George Saunders, author of Lincoln in the Bardo
A wildly energetic, heartfelt, original debut by a young writer of exceptional promise. These stories, 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.

Author Blurb Mary Karr, author of Lit: A Memoir
The mind-frying hilarity of Anthony Veasna So's first book of fiction settles him as the genius of social satire our age needs now more than ever. Few writers can handle firm plot action and wrenching pathos in such elegant prose. This unforgettable new voice is at once poetic and laugh-out-loud funny. These characters kept talking to me long after I closed the book I'm destined to read again and cannot wait to teach. Anthony Veasna So is a shiny new star in literature's firmament and Afterparties his first classic.

Reader Reviews

Harry C

Hope all the stories are as good as the first one!
So far I've only read the first story about the desolation within Chuck's Donuts shop, the woman runs it with her two daughters and the strange man who comes in every night and orders an apple fritter but never takes a bite. I envisioned a present ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cambodians in Stockton, California

Buddhas at the Khmer New Year Festival in Stockton Several stories in Anthony Veasna So's short story collection Afterparties take place in Stockton, California, the author's hometown. Stockton is home to the fifth largest population of ethnically Cambodian people in the United States as of 2019, according to the Pew Research Center. A 2018 study by U.S. News and World Report found Stockton to be the most diverse city in the United States.

Stockton is located in California's Central Valley, about 80 miles northeast of San Francisco. Its racial demographic makeup in 2018 was 42% Hispanic, 24% Asian, 19% white and 13% Black. However, it is far from being a bastion of racial tolerance and equity, as there are large income, education and opportunity gaps among the races, with white ...

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Read-Alikes

Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

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