Jane Hu at Bookforum:
Afterparties is haunted by lateness, not only because it arrives after the premature death of its author, but also because it is a work of Cambodian American literature. “I very much feel that I come from a Cambodian-American world, not really an American one . . . so I find it important for my work to reflect that,” So said in a 2020 interview. In contrast to Asian American writing by those of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean descent (what So might refer to as “mainstream East Asians” in “The Shop”), Cambodian American writing is a relatively newer and more minor literature. (“We’re minorities within minorities,” goes So’s own self-description in his posthumous essay “Baby Yeah.”) There was a relative absence of Cambodian American communities until the late 1970s, following the genocide and the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act; there is now also a deficit of Cambodian writing and writers, because the Khmer Rouge annihilated Cambodian society by targeting its intellectuals and artists (libraries and schools were demolished, books burned, teachers murdered). The aftershocks of genocidal loss permeate the writing of the Cambodian diaspora, as the deliberate obliteration of their literature makes the work of contemporary writing both more necessary and difficult. For the children of Cambodian refugees, this work is even harder: How do you write the stories of those whose stories were systematically destroyed?