The Happiest Refugee Summary and Study Guide

Anh Do

The Happiest Refugee

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  • Features 12 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis.
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The Happiest Refugee Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 35-page guide for “The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 12 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 20 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Family and Gratitude and Generosity.

Plot Summary

The Happiest Refugee is an immigrant narrative from popular Australian comedian Anh Do. Do is known for his stand-up comedy routines and infectious humor, and uses his ability to connect with an audience through humor while recounting his journey from Vietnam to Australia in this memoir. The memoir paints the comedian in an entirely new light for his followers as well, and has helped to propel Do into the spotlight as a survivor who takes an active role in giving back to the community that has accepted him and given his family so much, just as his mother encouraged him and the rest of the family to do. As such, the narrative beautifully paints Do’s gratitude towards his adopted country, and works as a written treatise in espousing how to overcome obstacles and use celebrity to help others.

Many critics praise the narrative for its entertaining tone, much like Do’s comedy routines, and its writing style. The style of the memoir is easily approachable, allowing it to reach a broad spectrum of readers. The memoir also includes photographs of Do and his family. One picture, which is indicative of Do’s humor throughout the memoir, shows his younger brother dressed up as a girl due to the fact that the family gratefully accepted whatever clothes they could get when arriving in Australia. Do is the narrator of the work, and even uses his trademark humor to turn the lens of inquiry onto himself. One example is when he mentions how different Australia is from the family’s initial expectations, especially because his family thought they were going to Austria, not Australia.

The narrative takes the reader on an intense journey for survival and freedom. Do’s narrative shows his resilience to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War, like many of his countrymen. He finds passage on an overcrowded boat and must journey through pirate-infested waters before arriving to Australia. His journey for freedom and acceptance does not end with his arrival in Australia, however. Once he is accepted as a refugee, he must begin the arduous task of fitting in and even assimilating to his adopted homeland, attempting to accept and give back to the community as his mother wholeheartedly instructs his family to do.

Like many immigrant narratives, Do’s coming-of-age tale is rife with prejudice and setbacksin the one place one would expect this type of behavior not to exist: the classroom. Do has to face the prejudice of teachers in a private school filled with wealthy students. He points out how his mother was not able to afford school uniforms or textbooks, which irked the teachers as well. Do’s experiences with prejudice during his childhood soon morphed into his desire to study law while in university. Though he did not want to study law initially, he did want to make his mother proud. Not only that, he wanted to try and achieve some measure of success to try and pay his mother back for all of her sacrifices. In the end, Do reveals how he found his footing in comedy, and rose to become a well-known comedian with appearance on celebrity game shows in addition to his comedy routines.

The Happiest Refugee is a memoir that approaches the themes of loss, war and immigration in a different light. There are many memoirs that are weighty, and which focus more on the suffering and loss of self. Do’s take on the memoir genre allows the reader a fresh perspective. It loses nothing in its approach to such a sensitive topic; in fact, readers have noted that Do’s style and take on his journey from Vietnam to Australia have helped to spread the plight of refugees to those who would not have otherwise known about the issue. As such, Do’s memoir does exactly what his mother always implored the family to do: to give back to others as a way of accepting community. Likewise, giving back in this way broadens the borders of community, thereby making genuine connections through humor and honest insight.

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