A mother who relives a school shootout for the sake of her young son. A washed-up badminton star from high school got stuck in his father's grocery store. A young teacher disillusioned with his romantic prospects and the privileged high school students he teaches to be "socially conscious". Each of these characters are Cambodian-American, hailed from the same unnamed city in central California, and each struggles through the overlapping arcs in Anthony Veasna So's debut story collection. According to parties, out August 3rd.
The stories in this book are simmering. Cultures intertwine and generations born on different continents battle for understanding as they run donut shops and auto repair businesses in a post-recession vibrant Central Valley community that pulsates on the site. A standout story, "Maly, Maly, Maly", begins with cousins Ves and Maly lounging in an open truck, the engine running, the air conditioner exploding and pouting, while their extended family prepares a party for what they believe newborn that it is the reincarnation of Maly's long-dead mother. "Here we are with the air conditioning engine running, the doors wide open so our bare legs can come out," says Ves as the story begins. "Because this, to get through the heat, is all we have."
This collection is riddled with those silent revelations that come from the minds of characters who are snappy, apathetic, and imperfect enough to be simply loved.
Survival is a thread running through the nine subtly interconnected stories populated by refugees who witnessed the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s and their second generation children. Characters stare in the face of death and generational trauma, flinch, laugh, or just accept it. "Not helpful, we were autogenocid," says one character blankly. "It was done to us, that's all," says one father in another story. "There's no point in crying when it's already happened." So never confront the trauma directly, instead examining how the fallout filters across generations. The stories are full of aimless and exhausted young characters struggling to root their identities in something else.
So died last December at the age of 28 while finishing the final revisions for this collection. So when your characters face death bluntly, as they often do, you can't help but sense a dark premonition. His reflections would still spark the imagination. "Perhaps the younger you are, the more unusual the dying," thinks Serey, the aforementioned reborn mother who grew up as a nurse in a dementia unit and struggles with the ghosts of a past that is not hers. "What's the difference between birth and death anyway? Aren't they just the opening and closing of worlds?"
This collection is riddled with those silent revelations that come from the minds of characters who are snappy, apathetic, and imperfect enough to be simply loved. According to parties explores these characters and their close community with empathy, heart and wit.
“Even now, so many decades later, I often return to our afternoons and then I look back at everything that has happened to us and think how stupid of me to see our pain as temporary, limited to the past contained in it … I was constantly upset, maybe even annoyed by your endless curiosity about the regime, the camps, the genocide … Through my frustration, my clenched teeth, I didn't have the words to … say that those years were never the only explanation for anything; that I have always seen genocide as the source of all our problems and none of them. "
Request (s) for POPSUGAR read challenge
If you're reading this for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2021, use it for these prompts:
- A book published in 2021
- A book with three generations (grandparents, parents, child)
- A book about forgetting
The sweet spot summary
According to parties ($ 22, originally $ 28) by Anthony Veasna So is a darkly hilarious collection of interconnected short stories, all tied to a tight, central California community of Cambodian refugees. It confronts the lingering effects of genocide from second generation characters who also grapple with their own problems: romance, technology, apathy, and finding their place in the world.