[A] remarkable début collection ... So is hardly given to stoic silences. The young people in Afterparties spill forth with language ... So skillfully conjures the rhythm of conversations ... It feels transgressive that Afterparties is so funny, so irreverent, concerning the previous generation’s tragedy ... His sentences are brusque and punchy, and there’s an outrageous, slapstick quality to his scenes. But the stories often end on a haunting note, resonating with the broader consequences of leaving or staying.
A deceptively simple narrative structure scaffolded by social commentary and humor. Equal parts absurd and empathetic, Afterparties probes the complex lives of California Cambodian Americans in a style So once described as 'post-khmer genocide queer stoner fiction' ... So’s writing insists that ancestral haunting and millennial snark can exist simultaneously. Parts of Afterparties read like critical race theory ... Others, like a text chain between friends ... Wise to the familiar 21st century tropes of technological skepticism and potential, it is hard not to label So a voice of his generation. His humor feels straight out of millennial media darlings like Broad City,Insecure or Atlanta, but his themes are decidedly deep, such as the impact of inherited trauma, how it gets lodged into the corners of how we love and work. And his subjects are often overlooked ... Unlike authors of most contemporary cultural trauma narratives, So doesn’t linger in a diasporic longing, the need to excavate one’s family’s past, mining it for meaning in the present. Instead, he blends this second-generation need-to-know with insight and, as So’s former agent Rob McQuilkin put it, 'survivor’s wit' ... It is this ability to make pain shape-shift into the hopeful and the hilarious that makes So’s work so compelling ... So’s stories allow the past to well up into the present without force or preciousness. Afterparties insists on a prismatic understanding of Cambodian American diaspora through stories that burst with as much compassion as comedy, making us laugh just when we’re on the verge of crying.
The presence of the author is so vivid in Afterparties, Anthony Veasna So’s collection of stories, he seems to be at your elbow as you read ... The personality that animates Afterparties is unmistakably youthful, and the stories themselves are mainly built around conditions of youth—vexed and tender relationships with parents, awkward romances, nebulous worries about the future. But from his vantage on the evanescent bridge to maturity, So is puzzling out some big questions, ones that might be exigent from different vantages at any age. The stories are great fun to read—brimming over with life and energy and comic insight and deep feeling.