|Anthony Veasna So
(photo: Chris Sackes)
Anthony Veasna So, whose debut book, Afterparties, will be published by Ecco in August, died on December 8 at age 28.
Afterparties has already received praise from Bryan Washington, Brit Bennett, George Saunders, Dana Spiotta and Mary Karr, among others. His story "Three Women of Chuck's Donuts" appeared in the New Yorker this past February, and other work has appeared or is forthcoming in n+1, Granta and ZYZZYVA. His comics have appeared in Hobart and Nashville Review. He was most recently at work on a novel about three Khmer-American cousins--a pansexual rapper, a comedian philosopher and a hot-headed illustrator.
So described himself, in the third person, as "a queer boy, a Khmer-American son of former refugees, a failed computer scientist, a grotesque parody of the model minority, and a graduate of Stanford University, where he studied Art Practice and English Literature. Born in Stockton, Calif., he was raised on brutal stories of the Khmer Rouge Genocide that often, somehow, ended on a joke, such as his dad's favorite bit that Pol Pot's communist regime prepared him to be a contestant on Survivor."
His editor at Ecco, Helen Atsma, v-p and editorial director, told the New York Times that So's "writing is blazingly funny but also deeply empathetic. Those traits don't come together that often. Funny can easily start to feel flip and empathy can feel maudlin, but Anthony was somehow able to make it work. It just felt astonishingly original to me. He had great insight into the human condition."
So received an MFA in Fiction from Syracuse University, where he was a University Fellow, and had received a PD Soros Fellowship, a Lambda Literary Fellowship, a Kundiman Fellowship, a Tin House Scholarship, a Show Us Your Spines Residency with the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library, and the Joyce Carol Oates Award in Fiction. He also taught English Literature and Creative Writing at Syracuse University, the Young Writers' Workshop at Colgate University, the Urban School of San Francisco, Next Generation Scholars, the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants, and Catapult. He dabbled, too, in standup comedy, in which he made too many jokes about eating too many Jack in the Box tacos.