26 Sep 2011
I can’t actually remember the last autobiography that I read, or in fact whether or not I’ve ever read one before. So, in keeping with my current crusade to read widely, and differently, I made the choice to have a read of The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do.
I remember seeing this book everywhere when it was released, and I’d heard very good things about it. Quite recently I saw Anh Do on morning TV and it reminded me that I still hadn’t made the time to have a look at his book. He’s a funny guy, with an interesting story and so I thought this would make for a good (re)introduction to reading memoirs.
“Ahn Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. His entire family came close to losing their lives on the sea as they escaped from war-torm Vietnam 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.”
Anh Do’s story is fascinating to me, and is wonderfully authentic. It refers to a period of time that is close to my heart and I feel at home with his tales of university life in the 1990s and the perils of entering the workforce, complete with false-starts, misadventures and successes, both small and large.
The Happiest Refugee further fascinates, by presenting a perspective of what it was like to leave a ravaged homeland for greater safety and better opportunities. I can’t even begin to identify with this experience, and I feel quite privileged to be privy to this story of dangerous relocation. The Do family’s experience of migration is at once horrifying and inspiring.
In fact, Anh’s whole life seems to ebb and flow between these two poles…
“….the computer turned out to be very significant, with Khoa and I both writing our first screenplays on its Honeywell keyboard. Still to this day Khoa likes to mention the very lucky day when a bus driver almost killed Anh and kick started his movie career.”
Time and again, Anh recounts a fortunate life, cheating misfortune and coming out ahead and on top, more often than not with his big trademark grin on his face.
The Happiest Refugee really is a happily-ever-after story and Anh and his family are grand examples of what can be achieved by hard work and a stack of perseverance. It is also a story of appreciation, a sense of gratefulness which has lead Anh to do the things that he’s done for his family, for himself and for others.
Ultimately, this memoir is really entertaining. It is humorous and at the same time moving. If you’re a fan of Anh Do, you’ll find this a really interesting insight into his life and career, and even if you’re not a big fan I’d still say that you’ll find this autobiography enjoyable. It’s a fairly quick and easy book, and would work very nicely as a holiday read.
If you like autobiographies, or want to give one a try, check out The Happiest Refugee.