Afterparties is a collection of short stories, some interlinked, about Cambodian Americans in California, and the complexities of lives as second or third generation immigrants whose families still bear the weight of genocide. From the opening story, ‘Three Women of Chuck’s Donuts’, which follows a woman and her daughters keeping a donut shop open overnight, to the closing one, a mother’s reflection on how she told her son that she had survived a school shooting as a teacher, the collection is varied and yet feels like a whole, looking at the same themes and occasionally visiting characters who played smaller roles in other stories.
I tend to prefer short story collections that connect in some way, and this one, with longer stories and a sense of continuity, was very much in that category. It explores the impact of genocide and identity on Cambodian American life, giving specific perspectives but also broader ones about immigration (especially expectations and whether or not someone lives up to them) and sexuality and the intersection of both of those. For such a personal collection, the narrators of the stories do vary quite a lot, which I enjoyed, and there’s a real dark comedy edge throughout the stories.
Anthony Veasna So died before this collection could be released, something which the reader is introduced to at the start of the book. It’s hard to review Afterparties without mentioning this, but it’s also sad that it becomes the focus on what is a great collection that explores identity, family, and queerness.