The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do

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resized_9781742372389_224_297_FitSquareWhile not new to the bookstores, at present the plight of refugees is in our news on a daily basis, and this award-winning memoir is a timely reminder that not everyone has the freedom to travel at will. The Happiest Refugee is an amazing story of one family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam and the struggles they overcame to build a new life in Australia. Anh Do is a stand-up comedian and actor, and this brutally honest, funny and heart-breaking memoir will make you believe that anything is possible given the right attitude and will to survive.

The story begins in Vietnam in the mid 1970s with Do’s family fleeing for the chance of a better life. The family takes up the terrifying journey in a rickety old boat and along the way they are robbed twice by pirates, run out of food and water, become extremely ill and lose a young family friend overboard. There is also the heartache of leaving behind family who cannot travel and who they may never see again. When they are rescued, the refugees are taken to Malaysia and finally, Australia. This book will make you laugh and it will make you cry.

FULL REVIEW
The Happiest Refugee is an amazing story of one family’s escape from war-torn Vietnam and the struggles they overcame to build a new life in Australia.

Anh Do is an Australian stand-up comedian and actor, and in March he was announced the winner of the Australian Indie Book of the Year 2011 for this brutally honest, funny and heart-breaking memoir. Each year Australia’s independent booksellers vote on the Indie award, and this year is the first time that a work of non-fiction has won.

Read the book, and it is not hard to see why. At a time when our politicians argue over the details regarding the plight of refugees by sea to Australia, this book is a timely and honest reminder that not everyone has the freedom and future that they deserve.

The Happiest Refugee
The story begins in Vietnam in the mid 1970s with Do’s family fleeing for the chance of a better life. The family takes up the terrifying journey in a rickety old boat. Along the way they are robbed twice by pirates, run out of food and water, become extremely ill and lose a young family friend overboard. There is also the heartache of leaving behind family who cannot travel and who they may never see again. When they are rescued, the refugees are taken to Malaysia and finally, Australia.

Once safe, the story moves on to that of a family struggling with poverty, racism and internal politics, all the while trying to get on with making a better life despite the odds against them. When Do’s father abandons his mother with three young children, he is 13 years old. His mother does not speak English and works countless jobs to make ends meet. Do too turns his hand at a number of jobs to pay the bills and make do. The family’s instinct to survive is heartbreaking.

About Anh Do
Do went on to complete high school and study law at university. When about to sign a contract to take on a corporate job working sixty hours a week, he thought twice about the life that he wanted.

He consulted with a friend who was a stand-up comedian and asked how many hours he worked. “Four” was the answer. For Do the choice was easy. He has gone on to become one of Australia’s best-loved comedians, has acted in television series and films, written screenplays, starred at comedy festivals and is a sought-after motivational speaker across Australia.

In 2003, Do and his younger brother Khoa produced and directed a film titled “The Finished People”, starring Sydney street kids. It was nominated for three Australian Film Industry awards. Then came the movie Footy Legends centred on the game of rugby and starring Do as the lead actor.

Do makes us believe that anything is possible given the right attitude and will to survive.

Source
The Happiest Refugee (Allen & Unwin, 2010, ISBN:978174237 2389(pb), 232 pages).

My rating: ★★★★★

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