The Happiest Refugee

by

Anh Do

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The Happiest Refugee: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Anh travels around Australia to for his comedy gigs. He is accompanied by Suzie, who has quit her law job to pursue writing and photography. At times, Anh has racist experiences—as when a bouncer at one club he is supposed to perform in refuses to let him and Suzie enter.
While Anh emphasizes that he has had few racist experiences during his comedy career, the encounter with the bouncer points to the fact that, in Australia, Anh is perceived to be “other” by some white Australians regardless of his accomplishments.
Themes
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Anh’s most difficult comedy performance, however, involves performing in front of 200 Australian war veterans—among them Vietnam veterans. When Anh walks on stage, the veterans are brimming with hostility; they don’t laugh at his jokes. Over the course of the performance, however, Anh wins them over, and they soon realize that, in spite of his Vietnamese roots, Anh is an “Aussie” just like them.
While this comedy performance before 200 veterans tests Anh’s limits as a comedian, it also ultimately reveals the power of comedy’s capacity to overcome divides. While the veterans view Anh as an enemy at the beginning of the show, by the end of it they view him as one of them. 
Themes
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Anh begins getting more TV work, including appearances on bigger shows shot in Melbourne. After one big show that Anh appears in, which also features the American actor Will Smith, he and his father Tam spend the evening drinking.
Anh’s gamble to pursue a career in comedy is paying off. Another advantage to his career is that it takes him to Melbourne, where his father lives, and therefore gives him and his father the opportunity to reconnect.
Themes
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Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
On that evening, his father reminisces, remembering his eldest brother Binh, or Uncle One. Uncle One had been the gentlest and kindest of the brothers, Tam tells Anh. He and Tam had gone together to purchase the boat on which the family was to make their escape from Vietnam. When they met the three men from whom they were supposed to purchase the boat, however, the men insisted that only one brother could come with them to see the vessel. Uncle One left with them. As Tam watched him depart with the men, he was overcome by a terrible feeling—but he didn’t follow his brother. Uncle One never returned. The next day, Tam had discovered his brother’s body in a wooded area. He had been murdered by the men. Tam was devastated, and felt terrible guilt, especially when returning his brother’s body to Anh’s grandmother.
The tragic story of Uncle One’s murder clearly marks an terrible moment in Tam’s life. Because of Tam’s presence on the night of the murder, he is left to live with guilt, especially as he had made the choice not to follow his brother and the three men. Uncle One’s murder also reveals in stark form the role that luck or ill fortune play in the family’s lives. Tam survives the evening simply because he had not gone with the three men, while Uncle One dies. This again highlights how fortunate Tam as well as his children are in surviving so many odds. 
Themes
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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On this evening, Tam also tells Anh that, in spite of his repute for courage and daredevilry, he has always been terrified whenever undertaking a courageous action. This includes the time when he walked into the Communist re-education camp, dressed in a senior official’s uniform, to rescue his two brothers-in-law Thanh and Huy. He had also been terrified while guiding the family on the “Motherfish” boat during their escape from Vietnam.
Anh’s acknowledgment of his fear here represents a moment when he makes himself vulnerable before his son, revealing himself to be human. In doing so, Tam also shows his strength—he has undertaken many courageous and brave acts, in spite of the terrible fear that he felt.
Themes
Migration and Luck Theme Icon
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Courage and Perseverance Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon