The Happiest Refugee is Anh Do’s story from his childhood years, through to his foray into comedy and beyond. His memoir begins with his harrowing escape from Vietnam, with forty family members and friends on a small fishing boat. Surviving five days at sea where they battled death, pirates and the elements, his family were rescued and sent to a Malaysian refugee camp where they spent three months before arriving in Australia in 1980.
On arrival in Australia, Do expresses his family’s delight at the welcome they received and it is uplifting to read that he experienced little racism during his life in Australia. Do upholds his Vietnamese culture which is embraced by the many friends in his life. Throughout the book, he expresses his admiration and respect for his hardworking, resourceful and entrepreneurial family, who make their way in their new home through a series of endeavours such as sewing and duck farming. Do touchingly describes his father’s decent into grief and alcoholism following a failed venture, their years of estrangement and eventual reconciliation.
Do writes in a matter of fact style, with a series of short narratives compiled together to make up his colourful life. Scattered throughout is his adorable trademark humour, whilst the reader is also privy to his down to earth, genuine attitude whilst sharing in his gratitude for those who have made an impact on his life. Throughout his life Do and his family experienced financial hardship, yet he relentlessly pursued his dreams whilst working hard to support his mother, brother and sister without complaint. His story is inspiring and a delight to read.