“A story of survival, loss, dreams and gratitude..........The Happiest Refugee a memoir by Anh Do touches the heart strings whilst having you crying with laughter” Jennifer Deaves
“Anh Do nearly didn't make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the seas as they escaped from war-tornVietnam in an overcrowded boat. But nothing – not murderous pirates, nor the imminent threat of death by hunger, disease or dehydration as they drifted for days – could quench their desire to make a better life in the country they had dreamed about.
Life in Australia was hard; an endless succession of back-breaking work, crowded rooms, ruthless landlords and make-do everything. But there was a loving extended family, and always friends and play and something to laugh about for Anh and his brother and sister. Things got harder when their father left home when Anh was 13 – they felt his loss very deeply and their mother struggled to support the family on her own.
His mother's sacrifice was an inspiration to Anh and he worked hard during his teenage years to help her make ends meet, also managing to graduate from high school and then university. Another inspiration was the comedian Anh met when he was about to sign on for a 60-hour-a-week corporate job. Anh asked how many hours he worked. ‘Four,' the answer came back, and that was it. He was going to be a comedian!”
I love memoirs..... the reality of it all, the journey of someones life, the uplifting bear all truth..... and The Happiest Refugee A Memoir by Anh Do did not disappoint. I laughed, I shivered with anticipation, I turned pages with hesitation and I was gripped by every word. I traveled with Anh as he loved, lost, fell and
conquered. I learnt of his culture, beliefs and his struggle in a country that he gives thanks to.
I knew nothing of this comedian who had graced my presence on television on the odd occasion but now I feel I know him personally. I know the boy he was and the man he has grown to be....the life he left behind and the life he now lives.... the family he loves and the tragedies that have unfolded. Via The Happiest Refugee Anh Do has become part of my life and left an impact that will change the way I view events in my own life in the future to come.
The Happiest Refugee A Memoir is more than a book, it is a cultural journey. It is a compelling look into the struggles and plight of refugee's and a war-torn country. As an Australian I take for granted how lucky I really am. Clean drinking water, food on the table, a car to drive, family, friends and open space to walk freely yet still I complain about the 'little' things in life. The Happiest Refugee gave me a look at life from a different perspective, making me realise just how hard some get it. Anh Do brings home the reality of life for people in other countries.... the desperation, loss, lonliness and desire for a better place to be. What would you do if placed in a situation likes Anh's family? This book has you questioning, realising and understanding the emotions and risks taken by refugee's, a situation I will never judge again but embrace as a dream by another for a world that is free from the hardships they endure.
In The Happiest Refugee Anh Do writes “ The boat was nine metres long by two and a half metres wide and there would be forty people crowded on board – immediate family, uncles ( including the two who had been in the camps for three years ), aunts and friends, including toddlers, babies and teenagers whose parents were too old or sick to make the journey. No belongings would be taken except the clothes on their backs, though everyone had been stockpiling food and water for months. There wasn't a lot but enough to last the week they expected to be at sea. Any leftover funds were swapped for small amounts of gold, the 'international currency', in the hope that wherever we ended up it could be traded for local money”
What those forty people went through just for a chance of a better life should never need to be experienced by anyone, especially children. Storms, rough seas, extreme heat with little shelter, hunger, thirst, pirates and the stench of petrol fumes and old fish combined with vomit and human excrement just added to their anticipation, fear, loneliness and loss of the loved ones they left behind. The Happiest Refugee had me considering human rights, fairness and equality in this world.
The Happiest Refugee shows the love of a boy for his family and his devotion to his mother. His appreciation for all she did for him and all she strived for..... a love for the women and mother she is. Still today Anh is devoted to his mother, helping her during the continuation of their life's journey together. Although Anh had differences with his father over the years as he himself grew into a young man, finding love and life as a family man, he remembered his dad and all that he had done to make him the man he was. He shows that it is possible to rise above differences, to mend the heartache, to forgive and forget and to love again. The Happiest Refugee is a story of family, unity, love and acceptance for each other as individuals who contribute to a team that strive for happiness for each other, and when the balance is tilted life continues to go forward on the road to recovery.
What Anh Do went through and what he has achieved with his life today shows that it is possible to rise above adversity. Anh shows courage, determination and gratitude for all his parents did for him, all he was offered in life and for the country he was given. Although life has thrown its challenges his way on occasions he has held his head high and, using his positive bouncy 'comedian' disposition, soldiered forward finding that
positive place for not only himself but those he loves.
Thank you Anh Do for sharing a little bit of your life with the world. Through The Happiest Refugee A Memoir I have found a new more positive and grateful outlook on life that I will take with me wherever I go. I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to read this book and encourage all to open it's cover..... I guarantee you will be turning the pages whilst riding a rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts.
Further information can be obtained at: www.anhdo.com.au
Published by Allen and Unwin
review: Jennifer Deaves