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The Happiest Refugee: A Memoir

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4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  3,848 ratings  ·  481 reviews
Anh 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-torn 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 dre ...more
Paperback, 232 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Allen & Unwin (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Matt
Out of five stars, I rate this book SIX out of five.

This is one of the most uplifting memorable true stories I have ever read. Easy to read, difficult to put down.

A potentially life changing read.

Some of my favourite quotes are: (May contain spoilers)


"Khoa, the baby dangled over the side of the boat by pirates, the toodler that Mum dressed in little girls' dresses, the fat kid that thought the homeless woman was going to eat him... had just won young Australian of the year."
Marj
I must be the only person in Australia who is not familiar with Anh Do, which a few visits to YouTube will no doubt fix...nevertheless his memoir was both tragic and funny, humble and most of all uplifting. For any reader who has encountered refugees before, many parts of his story will sound familiar: the harrowing sea voyage, his encounter with racist attitudes in Australia and the family credo to succeed. But pervading it all is Anh's luminescent smile, his family's 'can do' attitude, helped ...more
Brenda
Anh Do and his family escaped war-torn Vietnam in a rickety boat, one that had far too many people on it, and the journey was extremely dangerous. Anh’s Dad was the pilot of the boat, and he was determined to see all his passengers safe and sound on the shores of Australia.

As refugees in Australia, life was an extreme and constant struggle. But they were determined to survive, and Ahn’s parents worked hard to provide a secure lifestyle for them all. From working late into the night sewing, seve
...more
Tiffany Vaughan
Possibly the most exceptional memoir I've ever experienced. I struggled to put it down and ached with joy when I picked it back up. I wanted to keep turning the pages forever. And yes, word on the street has it that it's truly life-changing.

As I fervently turned each page, Anh had me both laughing and crying. Not just mere chuckles here and there, but more like a deluge of roaringly deep belly laughs. The way he tells a story is just magical. Anh Do is a born storyteller. His nostalgia is infec
...more
Rusalka
I read this a while ago. Nearly a month ago. I was so grumpy at my country and it's petty politics when it comes to people coming to us seeking asylum, I couldn't write a review for a while. And then in the last 6 days, my country has completely lost the fucking plot. The two major parties are trying to complete to be the cruelest to the relatively small number of people who come to Australia each year (it's small as it's a hard place to get to. We limit the numbers of refugees already just by b ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
“There are only two times. Now and too late.”

With humour, warmth and spirit, Anh Do shares his journey from a refugee boat fleeing Vietnam to a successful and well known comedian in Australia. The Happiest Refugee won multiple Australian book awards in 2011 and captured the heart of the nation.

When Anh was a small child, his family gambled everything in their desire to escape the crippling poverty in Vietnam on a barely seaworthy boat crowded with 40 others. Twice attacked by pirates and on the
...more
Cathy Atkinson
Inspirational, funny, honest. Told in a matter-of-fact way. Australians who are 2nd, 3rd generation Aussies and older need to take a good look at the way they view the refugee question. An accident of birth does not give us the right to be so mean-spirited. We take this way of life, this freedom, for granted: by the same token, we need to be vigilant to ensure that these freedoms are not eroded.
Anh Do tells a great story in a self-effacing style you would expect if you have enjoyed his stand-up
...more
Jeanette
This autobiography of Australian Comedian and Actor Anh Do is a pleasure to read. It is funny, touching and inspiring. Anh relates how his family escaped from post-war Vietnam in a boat and were welcomed into Australia as refugees. He relates his own story and that of his extended family with great humour and warmth. The Happiest Refugee puts a face on those seeking safety and a new life on Australian shores - I only hope it helps Australians to re-find the generosity and spirit of welcome towar ...more
Isabelle
Loved this! So inspirational! So funny! Extremely moving! :) :D
Sam
I am so glad I finally got to read this because it was a wonderful book, I enjoyed every bit of it! I don't normally read biographys, I've read the popular ones "Marley & Me" and "Mao's Last Dancer" and I really enjoyed those as well.

Throughout reading I kept thinking to myself how positive Anh and his family are after all their continued bad luck. I think anyone who thinks there life is tough should read this and see that things may not be so bad and you must always look on the bright side
...more
Annie
Not sure if anyone remembers- or ever closely followed as much as my family and I did- 'Thank God You're Here' a few years ago, but I certainly do. For no reason in particular it became a family pastime. To be honest I'm not entirely sure how often we enjoyed it, but I can recall these two things; 1. Hamish Blake can kiss me anytime he wants to, and 2. Anh Do is such a great human and I adore his humour and character. This show being a big part of ours lives for about 4 years as i enjoyed Anh's ...more
Imogen
I absolutely adored this book! The whole time I was reading it, I felt happy. Even when something bad went wrong, it always, ALWAYS worked out for the best! I love the relationship Anh has with his brother and sister, and especially with his mother. His mother sounds like an absolutely amazing woman and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her experiences.

I really enjoyed the stories that Anh provided about his parents in the opening part of the book. How they met, and eventually married, and how
...more
Narrelle
Anh Do always comes across as a chirpy, friendly, funny decent bloke with a very big, very soft heart. You finish The Happiest Refugee with that impression firmly rooted in your mind, along with the wonderful story of the life and family that helped to shape him.

The Happiest Refugee is written as a series of anecdotes, but each separate story is woven as part of a whole to show his life. Do's style is breezy, fun and accessible, and the stories are funny and, on occasion, very moving.

I read the
...more
Simone Ramone

I found this book very disappointing.
I never really felt that I was privvy to Ahn's real feelings about anything that he found problematic.
He seemed to place the same importance on his mother's dog going missing for a day as he did on attending a private school in a home made uniform.
He almost opened up at one stage but the sincerity vanished as quickly as it arrived.

I really liked his positive, grateful attitude towards becoming Australian, and as much as I admire that, I still felt quite short
...more
Mary
Mar 27, 2011 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
This book was amazing.

I wasn't at all sure I was interested in reading it, but I picked it up while bored with another book I was reading, and it had me hooked from the first page. The autobiographical story format moves along really quickly, and I read it from cover to cover in a single day.

It had me laughing (as you would expect in a book by a leading comedian) and crying (frequently). It is also inspirational, making you feel as though you should make the most out of every opportunity you g
...more
Serena Lewis
I absolutely loved this memoir! I laughed, I cried, and then I laughed and cried some more. Anh Do and his beautiful family touched my heart. Their harrowing journey, as refugees, on an old boat to Australia certainly put a human face to a very real issue even in current times. Those against boat people would do well to read this book.

Anh speaks from his heart as he tells of the hardships and triumphs he and his family experienced in getting to Australia and how they managed to survive once her
...more
Ruth Bonetti
This is a marvellous book, well written from the opening teasing pages. Anh Do shares openly and honestly the hardships, poverty and pain of being deserted by his father, but he is not one for the maudlin or victim mentality. His irrepressible humour lifts even tough stories and prove his strength.

Readable memoir from a likeable character.
David Willoughby
Anh Do speaks with heart and soul as he tells his family’s story of struggle as they emigrate and try to assimilate into Australian life. This is a world so very different to mine but I was sooo drawn into the story. 10 out of 10.
Jill

When Anh was two years old, his parents made the decision to escape war-torn Vietnam and make a new life elsewhere. A crowded boat, attacked by pirates (twice), days and days at sea drifting without food or water, and eventual rescue by the Australian Coastguard – this was how Anh’s new life began.
Settling in to Australia, the Do’s felt nothing but gratitude for the wonderful country that welcomed them, gave them somewhere to live, and provided them with so many opportunities. Ahn’s parents wor
...more
Xanthi
This was an entertaining read, written with a lot of humour. I can appreciate the hardship his family and extended family went through. I had no idea that Anh is a qualified lawyer. Who would have thunk it, as he seems to be such a down to earth kind of guy. I guess that his working class background, kept him grounded..and his family. I do have a few comments to make on the 'negative side of things'. Firstly, the bit about his vegan ex-gf and how he lost lots of weight and wasn't 'solid' enough ...more
Cass
Feb 28, 2011 Cass rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: All Australians (the first part anyway)
Recommended to Cass by: Anh Do (on Radio National)
Anh Do is a well-known and much loved Australian comedian. He is the type of comedian that tells anecdotes rather than jokes. It is his delivery and timing that turning an interesting story into a hilarious tale.

The big thing lacking about this book is Anh Do. I find myself straining to hear his voice and his way of laughing at his own jokes. I would much rather listen to him read this book than read it myself.

The first part of the book is an eye-opening story of the lives of a family of Vietanm
...more
Karen
Every now and then along comes a book which just restores your faith in life. Anh Do's THE HAPPIEST REFUGEE is one such book. Mind you, it will make you feel good, it will make you cry in a few places, it will really make you think about what it is to be a "refugee" and how we treat / react to current day boat people. Mostly though, this was a book that restores a bit of your faith in humanity.

Anh and his family escaped war torn Vietnam as boat people. They took a dangerous and harrowing journey
...more
Tracey
I wouldn't normally read a book like this but my Daugther was reading it for school so I borrowed it off her. Anh Do gives its readers insight into what being a refugee is like and how far they will go to leave their horrible life and country behind, to start a new and make a better life for themselves and their family. The book highlights the values of strong family relationships, generosity and courage. This book has made me realise that it’s not simple or easy for a refugee to leave their own ...more
Aleeshas2
The Happiest Refugee tells of the struggles and obstacles Anh Do faced to get to where his is today. The only thing better than a novel about a protagonist who overcomes all odds to achieve greatness is one which happens to be true. Anh do's life is a captivating and inspiring story which gives the audience insight into what it was like to be a Vietnamese refugee through his own experience . I believe there is only so much facts and figures can tell someone compared to experiencing things first ...more
Sam Still Reading
Oct 30, 2010 Sam Still Reading rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Australians
Recommended to Sam Still Reading by: I like Anh Do's humour
Australians probably know Anh Do as a comedian and/or the star of the movie Footy Legends. What they probably don’t know is how Anh got to be one of Australia’s truly funny blokes.

Anh and his family are from Vietnam and survived a harrowing boat journey (multiple raids by pirates, dehydration, loss of life) to get to Australia (via a refugee camp in Malaysia). Anh was only two at the time, but the story of the trip is edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff. When they finally made it to Australia, the D
...more
Tara E
This is an absolute must read.

This auto bio is written clearly, plainly, and if you've heard Anh in his comic shows, in his voice. It's not sophisticated literary language. And thankfully so!

It is a very personal insight into the life, history, heritage, trials of a family who flee communist Vietnam for a better life... Which eventuates in Australia.

In the news and talkback radio today people often criticize refugees and especially boat people. Why do they jump the "queue" (non existent that it
...more
Rachael
This is a rare book that actually lives up to the quotes on the back!

I laughed (until I cried!). I gasped out loud at surprises. I was moved by a tale of survival against the odds; and by the familiarity of an Aussie childhood. This book is easy to read. As Anh has become part of our lives via his television appearances, it feels like the story of someone you know.

When I started the book, I wondered if it would be 'political' in this era of boat people and refugees. It's not, not overtly, but
...more
Cheyenne Blue
Dec 23, 2012 Cheyenne Blue rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who think refugees are bludgers
Recommended to Cheyenne by: Found in the latest housesit
Shelves: australian, memoir
I hadn't heard of Anh Do as a comedian, but I had heard of this book, so I was happy to stumble across a copy in our current housesit. The memoir of a Vietnamese boat person made good. Anh was only two when his family made the journey from Vietnam in a wooden fishing boat with 40 others, and settled in Sydney. I enjoyed his positive, happy style as well as his genuine enthusiasm for his adopted country.

It's a swift book to read - I went from go to whoa in a couple of hours.

I wish the whingers w
...more
Julia Legian
This book is hilarious. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Anh Do is one of my favourite comedians. He’s very funny and cheeky. I’m so proud of you Anh.
Natalie
What a life so far! This memoir is so heartwarming, you can't help laugh,cry and feel Anh Do and his beautiful families determination to escape Vietnam, suffer dehydration at sea and many more life changing experiences. Most would exhaust and knock down a persons spirit but for this very optimistic family, it strengthened them and they gave back their thanks to this wonderful country. REALLY, really worth reading. Anh Do writes so well that you feel what they are going through and hold your brea ...more
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Anh Do is an accomplished writer, actor, producer and stand-up comedian.

After bagging all the comedy awards around town, including the Sydney Comedian of the Year, and appearing on all the TV shows that feature comedians, including "Thank God You're Here" and "Rove Live", Anh finally realized that those regular gigs at Rooty Hill bikers club would one day get him killed, so he has supplemented the
...more
More about Anh Do...
The Little Refugee WeirDo (WeirDo #1) Even Weirder! (WeirDo #2) WeirDo #3: Extra Weird Growing Up Asian in Australia

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“There are only two times. Now and too late.” 25 likes
“Always question your fear, Anh. there's almost never a good reason to be scared.” 14 likes
More quotes…