Afterparties - Stories by Anthony So - Book Review

Afterparties is a collection of stories by Cambodian-American author Anthony So, who passed away unexpectedly last year at the age of 28. The stories are novel in that they are about Cambodian-American life, something that had not yet been published in the New Yorker, and cool to read as an immigrant and a Cambodian-American myself. I felt an ability to relate but also a sense of uncomfortable-ness as he touched topics such as reincarnation, the Khmer Rouge, and even gay threesomes. 

TL/DR: Read Afterparties for insight into the perspective of a gay, Californian Cambodian-American's imaginings of Cambodian/immigrant/family life. Sort of like the story of So, whose life got cut short, these stories just provide a snippet into the Cambodian-American perspective, and I was left wanting more of an emotional connection to characters.

There are nine stories are:

  • Three Women of Chuck's Donuts
  • Superking Son Scores Again
  • Maly, Maly, Maly
  • The Shop
  • The Monks
  • We Would've Been Princes
  • Human Development
  • Somaly Serey, Serey Somaly 
  • Generational Differences 
My favorite stories were: Generational Differences, and the Shop. In Generational Differences, I learned things such as the Stockton shooting where a racist murdered southeast Asian children at an elementary school. I never learned about it before, and maybe it's something only known among NorCal kids or South East Asian Studies majors. 
The Shop was a story of a small business owner and the relationship between a parent and child, and poses the question of what are immigrants working for or towards.

Other themes in the other stories include being haunted by the genocide, family/communication struggles, socioeconomic struggle with immigrant assimilation, and just life in California from the tech world to the San Joaquin Valley. 

Almost as fascinating as the stories to me were the circumstances of So's death, described in this vulture article: 

My sister and at least one of my cousins are also reading this book, and she noted that: "I've never read anything by a Cambodian-American author." Although So has passed away, I'm excited that maybe some other Cambodian will publish non-fiction that will tell our stories, and he was just a starting point. 


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