Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So - review by Paul Bailey

Paul Bailey

California Dreaming

Afterparties

By

Grove Press 260pp £14.99 order from our bookshop
 

The publication of the nine short stories in Afterparties was intended to herald the arrival of a truly exceptional and original writer, but Anthony Veasna So died in December 2020 of a drug overdose at the distressingly early age of twenty-eight. Although the book that will keep his name alive is bristling with youthful energy and exuberance, it often hints at darker matters as well. The comic spirit that lights up almost every page is informed by the terrible recent history of Cambodia during the years of communism and the Khmer Rouge.

The Cambodian Americans So writes about with such confident attentiveness span several generations: the old and middle-aged who managed to reach America and eventually become citizens, and their children, who were born in the new country (as So was – in Stockton, California, where some of his stories are set). The young ‘Cambos’ are, understandably, more in touch with the American way of life than their elders, especially in regard to food, drink and sex. Their parents, by contrast, are trying to preserve the values and customs they regard as properly Cambodian, while working hard to ensure that their sons in particular will become

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