Angelique gave this book to me in May 2014 and it’s taken a lockdown in 2020 for me to read. Sorry Babe!
Anh Do is a famous artist and comedian in Australia and he tells his story of how he and his family escaped post-war Vietnam by boat and eventually settling in Australia. Anh and his brother were infants at the time of the crossing. The section on the family’s journey by small fishing craft is harrowing. They encounter pirates who take everything they have, lose family members overboard until they’re rescued by Germans.
When they arrive in Australia, the adult members of the family are amazed by the land of plenty, and are so grateful to “this great country”, where they can start a new life and where hard work is rewarded. Anh’s parents work all hours so that they can provide a better life for their 3 children. The boys are sent to a private school and Anh is very open and honest about how much he loved the school and his mates, but also at the same time never felt like he truly belonged as money was tough for the Do family. By this time, his father had left the family and his mother was a single parent.
Anh’s relationship with his father is complicated. On the one hand, his father is a larger than life character who led his family across the seas to Australia, and did daring feats of courage and bravery, and instilled a strong sense in his children that they could do anything, and that they should go for everything. But on the other hand, guilt drove him to drink and sadly violence towards his own family.
Ahn’s story of how he made it in comedy is inspiring, and his storytelling of important parts of his life is compelling. I particularly enjoyed the story of his engagement party, where Vietnamese met Aussies with a metre long pig!
He writes with raw honesty, and the book is filled with very personal stories. It was a pleasure to read and I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about Vietnamese boat people and growing up in 1990s Australia.