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Afterparties: Stories
Afterparties: Stories
Afterparties: Stories
Audiobook6 hours

Afterparties: Stories

Written by Anthony Veasna So

Narrated by Jason Sean

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

4/5

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About this audiobook

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE’S JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FOR BEST FIRST BOOK 

WINNER OF THE FERRO-GRUMLEY AWARD FOR LGBTQ FICTION

Named a Best Book of the Year by: New York Times * NPR * Washington Post * LA Times * Kirkus Reviews * New York Public Library * Chicago Public Library * Harper’s Bazaar * TIME * Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air * Boston Globe* The Atlantic

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).

Editor's Note

Irreverent, funny, and raw…

The highly anticipated short story collection from Anthony Veasna So, who died unexpectedly in 2020 on the verge of breaking through as a literary star. Irreverent, funny, and raw, “Afterparties” paints a vibrant portrait of growing up queer in a Cambodian American community, with an older, refugee generation that survived the Khmer Rouge genocide and a younger generation that wants to do more than survive. Roxane Gay selected “Afterparties” as the December pick for her Audacious Book Club.

LanguageEnglish
PublisherHarperAudio
Release dateAug 3, 2021
ISBN9780063049925
Afterparties: Stories

Reviews for Afterparties

Rating: 4.018867924528302 out of 5 stars
4/5

106 ratings12 reviews

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  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    I feel like I understand the Cambodian immigrant community now. I learned so much from this book. I loved the narrator. His accent gave a sense of authenticity to the stories. I’m so sad that the author died. His book is such a legacy in cultural understanding.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    I appreciate the fine writing of this collection but the narrator's voice distracted me a lot. They sounded too stiff.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    The stories were profound and sometimes funny. Loved the sarcasm and sad for the trauma. The audio book was not great and distracted from the beauty of the writing. The narrator’s reading was often times jagged, not eloquent, and robotic.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I don’t know what to say about this book that has gotten quite a bit of press. And I understand why, as it’s well written and thoughtful. Anthony Veasna So writes what seem to be autobiographical short stories of his extended families life as Cambodian (Khmer) immigrants in California. Immigrants who survived Pol Pot. He captures this life and the difficulties to assimilate into America in detail. We get to understand what goes on in the mind of these immigrants—or should I call them refugees? As terrible events continue to happen around the world these stories continue to need to be told. Anthony Veasna So died from a drug overdose before this book was published. In a way it’s just one more sad story of the hard life he and his fellow Cambodians endured both in Cambodia and in the United States.This book is worth a read.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    Children of the displaced survivors of multiple horrors growing in a barren landscape that doesn't support their parents' culture narrate hours or weeks of their lives over 3 decades during which the roots they seem to place are sparse and don't sustain. The voice is powerful and clear though the lives are anything but.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    For me, the most striking thing about these stories from Anthony Veasna So (sadly lost to an overdose prior to this book's publication) a first gen Cambodian American, is the ways in which they highlight how living through horror finds its first level of relief through humor. So tells the stories of the generation of refugees, his grandparents and parents and their contemporaries, who escaped Cambodian genocide of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and of their children. My parents and their contemporaries were the children of parents who escaped Lenin's mass extermination of Jews in the Soviet Union and Hitler's Shoah in Germany, scarred survivors. For my grandparents generation, and So's parents, the only two options for going forward seem to be relentless jocularity or the walking nightmare of PTSD. (I had grandparents who took both paths.) It was this dynamic that lead to the 50's-80's Jewish domination of comedy. Jews owned humor, from Shecky Greene to Milton Berle, Henny Youngman to Lenny Bruce, Joan Rivers to Don Rickles, and on and on. Mid-century Jews laughed so they would not cry. That same humor and those same PTSD soaked wraiths show up in Afterparties. They just look a little different than my grandparents, and they are populating parts of California in which no one else wants to live rather than parts of New York where no one else wants to live, but they share a lot. The children of this generation who escaped genocide are dutiful if not always loving offspring pushed to become professionals and insulate themselves with money, hanging on to their heritage mostly through food. This next generation, the children of the damned, are flashy and endlessly acquisitive in ways that make their Americanized children cringe. (I am that generation for the Jews and So is that gen for the Cambos.) I have no grand point, just that maybe this is what follows a holocaust necessarily. Those who avoid walking around like empty shells, seeing Cossacks or Khmer Rouge soldiers hiding in suburban American backyards, those people embrace fake it 'til you make it humor. Its a lot to chew on.As for So's stories themselves, they are heartbreaking and funny and illuminating and show us so many people we want to know. Some of the stories are better than others, but I found all worth my time and attention. So's death is tragic in its own right, but the tragedy is compounded by the clear promise of his work -- I expect he would have written some spectacular stuff had he lived.My favorite story was "The Shop" where we see connection to community and innate kindness destroy a man before his son's eyes. The story also features a closeted lover, some surprising monks, and a hilarious and heartbreaking doctor's wife who might have been my favorite character in the book. That story was, in my estimation, as close to perfect as it could be. "We Would've Been Princes" set at a huge family wedding and at the afterparty for the younger generation, came very close. It sharply defines the competing forces of being an American and a Cambodian. The stories I felt weakest were those So wrote from a woman's perspective. "Three Women of Chuck's Donuts" featured two smart and resourceful young girls and their exhausted but resolute mother, and though I found the older daughter's character compelling, I thought her grit and her mother's was overshadowed by the specter of the danger men bring with them a constant. The other "Somaly Serey, Serey Somaly" is sent in a nursing home and touched on the end of life, the ghosts of the past, and of the women charged with shepherding those at the end of their lives through the confusion of dementia and the press of memories more horrible than most of us can imagine. Again, the POV character, Serey, was really interesting but then fell off into this void, her bravery and compassion overshadowed by the demands of the old world and other external limitations. Those two stories were stripped of the honest humor and pathos of the other stories and they left little room to see the flashes of freedom and its rewards, of opportunities ahead (to succeed and to crash and burn), we see elsewhere. Both were still good, but less magical that the rest.One note, many of So's characters are gay and horny, and the sex here is graphic and not remotely romanticized. You will read about bodies stuck together with cum, chafed and stretched rectums and jaws that seize up from overuse. If that is a problem for you that is between you and yourself (I may be judging you, but you do you) and you will want to steer clear. There is a line in one story about a guy wanting to bottom but not with a white guy because he doesn't want his rectum colonized by a "white predator." That made me laugh out loud sitting alone on a park bench, and it was totally worth looking crazy. If you steer clear you will miss moments like that.Additional note. I started out listening to this on audio and hated the reader. Most of the recitation was flat and over-enunciated, and when the reader did try to infuse some energy into certain parts his tone and choices of what to emphasize often did not fit the prose. I traded the audio for the Kindle version and was happy I did so.