Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So
Amazing new short fiction. Published 19 Aug 2021
Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tender-hearted, balancing acerbic humour 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.
With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humour and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So.
Anthony Veasna So died unexpectedly last winter, before his debut short-story collection, Afterparties, was released.
"Witty and sharply expressed...the reader senses that [So] had a vast amount of soul and spirit in his account, and that he'd only just begun to draw from it...So's 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
"[A] remarkable début collection...The young people in Afterparties spill forth with language. His stories are chatty and crass, as characters incessantly tease one another, make jokes,...talk back and talk trash -- Hua Hsu." ― The New Yorker
"A bright and fearless debut, full of heart, joy and unforgettable characters." -- Douglas Stuart
"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." -- George Saunders
"Afterparties weaves through a Cambodian-American community in the shadow of genocide, following the children of refugees as they grapple with the complexities of masculinity, class and family. Anthony Veasna So explores the lives of these unforgettable characters with bracing humour and startling tenderness. A stunning collection from an exciting new voice." -- Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half
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." -- Mary Karr
"Anthony Veasna So is a terrific writer. These wild, complex and funny stories are brilliant in every way. They also speak in profound ways to this troubled American moment. One of the most exciting debuts of the past decade." -- Dana Spiotta
"Karen Russell, Carmen Maria Machado, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah - you can count on one hand the authors of this century whose debut short-story collections are as prodigious and career-making as Afterparties. This lovingly specific, history-haunted comedy of Cambodian-American manners should put Anthony Veasna So on smart readers' radar to stay." -- Jonathan Dee