Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Happiest Refugee

Image sourced from here
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 being geographically difficult), wanting a safe place to live. And I am disgusted. Repulsed. Absolutely and utterly ashamed. Which leads me to my point. This is not going to go away for a while (in fact, since I started writing this last night, the opposition has come out with another hideous policy), as the politicians feeds us lies and twisted weasel words of mistruths to the ignorant masses. There will not be a time for the foreseeable future I will not be too angry to write this review. So here we all are.

Anh Do is an Australian comedian. I'd link a video but a lot of them are locked down to Aus. So YouTube him on your own time. I've known of him for about 10 years or so now, mainly as he was a regular for the Canberran comedy competition for a few years, would come to our local comedy club every now and then, and then he and a few other comedians from other ethnic backgrounds started touring around together doing shows on growing up in Australia as an immigrant or from an immigrant family.

This book tells his experiences of growing up in Australia as a poor, Vietnamese refugee and the ridiculous things that happened to him and his family. He also details how his family escaped Vietnam in a boat dodging communists and pirates, sometimes not very successfully.

It's eye opening. Even as someone who spends a fair amount of time reading or listening about these issues. The reality is I'm always going to experience Australia as a white, middle class, educated Australian. There are parts I will never fully understand as it's not my experience of this country. I've always known of Vinnie's stores (St Vincent de Paul, a charity/thrift/op shop). They are nothing special. But if you have only owned one pair of clothes and then you walk into a store full of clothes going for $1 each, I can appreciate that this is almost magical. But it will never be an experience I will fully get I am sure.

The book is reasonably well written. It's written like a collection of comedy sketches, with a vague chronological order throughout the book. Because of this, it's really easy to read. I knocked it out in a couple of days. But the last part of the book was a little resume-y. A little too "look at at all the awesome things I have done". Which is great. For a kid who nearly didn't make it to Aus, and turned his life into a success story, that's fantastic! But when it's "then I was on this successful tv show, and then on this famous tv show, and then this one" I was sitting there thinking, "I know mate, I can look up your IMDB profile".

It's a good book. I recommend it highly, especially if you need to experience the world outside of your own world view like me. I would love to beat our general population and politicians over the head with it, pointing out that this is how we humanely deal with and settle refugees. How refugees spend so much time working so hard trying to "earn" the opportunities they have been given by being given a safe place to live.

It's an important book. And it's hilarious.

No comments:

Post a Comment