The Happiest Refugee

…by Anh Do.

Australian comedian Anh Do nearly didn’t make it to Australia. Born in Vietnam, Anh left with his family as a toddler on a boat. To some place. Met by pirates on the way and a treacherous journey altogether, they eventually got accepted as refugees to Australia. Anh talks about the initial good times the whole family had despite struggling with finances. His parents went on to get divorced. After their father walked out on them, Anh and his siblings Khoa and Tram lived with their mother who sewed to try and make ends meet. Anh and his brother had a part-scholarship to study at St. Aloysius College at Milson’s Point but the financial pressures were at the back of his mind. He also describes his post-school years and his journey through university and TAFE and meeting the love of his life Suzie at uni. And of course, how he became a comedian and his journey till now.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while. And I’m so glad I did. I like Anh Do as a comedian. And it was interesting to read his journey from a toddler till today. It was a heart warming read about the struggles he and his family went through as refugees and how they saw the silver lining in most things and made the best that they could with what they had. Most importantly, given the brouhaha we have been having here lately about ‘boat-people’, Anh’s story is a great reminder of how the stupid right-wing people are so black-and-white about their views of refugees. Or ‘boat-people’ as they like to call them. It also gives somewhat of an insight as to why someone would want to make the dangerous journey on a boat to another country. It is also lovely to see how the family embraced Australia and love the country. I identified with the love for Australia being an immigrant myself {albeit, not a refugee}.

I found myself laughing out loud in several places and crying silent tears in some others. Both of happiness and sorrow. I’ll leave you with some excerpts from the book before rating it:

Talking about his girlfriend Amanda:

Amanda also had one other problem that wasn’t technically a relationship breaker, but definitely something that was a little bit odd. She couldn’t say ‘Vietnamese’. She would say Viet-man-nese, over and over again.

‘It’s not that hard’, I told her. ‘Sound it out: Viet-na-mese.’


‘Viet-man-nese? What the hell is that? Like some refugee superhero or something? I am Viet-Man! I will fly over to your house and save your dinner with the softest hot bread rolls.’

On the journey by boat:

There was nothing but flat, blue water in every direction. The heat of the tropical afternoon sun clung to our skin and shoulders, and people tried to shield their eyes from the glare as the boat skidded along the frothy wave.

All in all, Anh shows us how fortunate he is to be where his life is at currently. And that resonated deeply with me. We forget all the things we have in this lovely country. We whinge and complain about everything without realising all the benefits we have. Like Anh Do, I know how lucky I am to be here.

And that’s what I loved about this book. I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,


Note: This post originally appeared on my personal blog, Over Cups of Coffee.


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