Quick Review: AFTERPARTIES by Anthony Veasna So (Ecco)

SoAV-AfterpartiesUSAn engaging collection of short stories

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.

Afterparties is the first and only book by Anthony Veasna So, who tragically passed away in December. I hadn’t read any of his short stories (many of which have been published elsewhere) before learning of this collection. As someone who is fascinated by California and an avid reader of fiction set in that state, I was intrigued by the alternative perspective this collection promised. I was not disappointed: Afterparties is an engaging, oft-endearing read. Continue reading