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Afterparties: Stories (Hardcover)
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.
"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."
"Afterparties has staked its claim as a 2021 title not to be missed."
— Harper’s Bazaar
“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)
"Even when these stories are funny and hopeful, an inescapable history is always waiting."
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"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."
— Literary Hub
"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
"In his stirring debut short story collection, Anthony Veasna So crafts a thoughtful portrait of Cambodian-American life..."
“[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.”
“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….After this immersive introduction to the Central Valley community, readers won’t want to leave.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"We've known that Afterparties, a "history-haunted comedy of Cambodian-American manners," was going to be one of the biggest short story collections of 2021 for a while now...So tragically died in December; he was just 28. All we can do now is read his work and celebrate his life."
— Literary Hub
"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 humor and startling tenderness. A stunning collection from an exciting new voice."
— Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half
"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, author of Lincoln in the Bardo
"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."
— Bryan Washington, author of Memorial
"A bright and fearless debut, full of heart, joy, and unforgettable characters."
— Douglas Stewart, author of Shuggie Bain
“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, author of Lit: A Memoir
"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, author of Innocents and Others
"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, author of The Locals and The Privileges
"An electrifying, raucous debut collection of stories, Anthony Veasna So's Afterparties feels clandestine and tingly, like a secret told to you by your very best friend—the one who always has the best gossip, and knows how to make you laugh so hard you cry."
— Refinery 29
"So’s stories vacillate between the hysterically absurd and the remarkably tender, revealing an intense emotional depth."
— NY Observer
“Funny and fraught, these unforgettable stories delve into the interstices of identity, hinting at life’s biting, imperfect beauty.”