The Happiest Refugee

by

Anh Do

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The Happiest Refugee: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Anh auditions for a children’s show called “Don’t Blame Me.” His love of animals, which the show features, serves him well. He arrives to the audition with a budgie on his head, and gets the part.
Anh’s originality and creativity are again on display here, as he comes up with an inventive way to get the attention of the show’s producers in order to win the part.
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Anh and his brother Khoa also undertake charity work. The two brothers volunteer with at-risk kids, and Khoa comes up with the idea of making a feature film with them. They manage to fundraise for the film, and a year and a half later, their film, entitled “The Finished People,” is released in theatres, and receives critical acclaim.
Anh and Khoa’s work with the at-risk children shows how, as they begin to find prosperity, they do not forget about those less fortunate than themselves. They bring their creative talents to bear in a way that benefits others.
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Impressed by Khoa’s devotion and work with the at-risk children, Anh nominates him for the Young Australian of the Year Award. To everyone’s delight—most especially Anh’s mother—Khoa wins the award. This marks a milestone not only in Khoa’s life, but also in the family’s. As he watches the award ceremony, Anh reflects that Khoa is that same child who had almost lost his life on the “Motherfish,” when, during the family’s escape from Vietnam, he had been dangled over the edge of the boat by pirates.
Anh’s winning of the Young Australian of the Year Award is an important moment for the family because it marks just how far they have come from poverty and hardship. Khoa and his siblings are now in a position to help others, and their efforts and their struggles are being recognized and rewarded.
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Related Quotes
After Anh’s show “Don’t Blame Me” ends, he finds it difficult getting parts as an Asian actor. As a result, he decides to write his own script, for a film he calls “Footy Legends.” The whole family becomes involved in the making of the film, and the film is released successfully.
In scripting the film “Footy Legends,” Anh once again shows his capacity for ingenuity and creativity. Rather than being held back by the lack of availability of parts for Asian actors, he creates his own, with the help of his family.
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“Footy Legends” takes Anh’s career to a whole new level. Suddenly, he gets calls to appear on big TV shows such “Thank God You’re Here.” He also receives a call to appear on the show “Dancing with the Stars.” Although Anh can’t dance for his life, he agrees to do the show, especially when he is informed that he will be teamed up with dancing legend Luda Kroitor.
Anh’s decision to take matters into his own hands by scripting and making “Footy Legends” pays off, as it leads to many more opportunities opening up for him. In accepting to take part in “Dancing with the Stars,” he also shows his adventurousness and fearlessness, especially given that he can’t dance. 
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During his participation in “Dancing with the Stars,” Anh visits a children’s hospital, which will be partly supported by proceeds from the show. The visit to the hospital reinforces his desire to succeed on the show, and he begins practicing much harder. His efforts pay off: he makes it to the show’s finale, although he doesn’t win.
The fact that Anh redoubles his efforts on the show after visiting the children’s hospital suggests the extent to which he is motivated by altruism. As someone who has suffered hardship himself, Anh is very sensitive to the suffering of others and wants to do well on the show simply to benefit the children’s hospital.
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Anh’s family are ecstatic over Anh’s newly-found celebrity on “Dancing with the Stars.” Both his father and mother host big gatherings whenever he’s on television.
The joy that Anh’s parents take in his television success points to their position as his biggest fans and supporters. Just as they cheered him on as a child, they cheer him now on as well. 
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Strangers begin recognizing Anh in the street. One day, he is stopped by Uncle Six—the uncle who had lived with Anh and his family twenty years ago, soon after their arrival in Australia, and who had disappeared mysteriously. Uncle Six tells Anh he’s been watching him on television. Anh had heard from his father that Uncle Six, who is adopted, had turned his back on the family—even ignoring his grandmother on the street.
Anh’s newfound celebrity leads to contact with strangers as well as renewed contact with figures from his past, such as Uncle Six, to whom Anh had been very close as a child. Yet Anh believes that his Uncle has behaved ungratefully towards the family by turning his back on them. Uncle Six’s disappearance so many years ago points to the fact that, while Anh’s family bonds are strong, they are not without conflict.
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While undertaking research for his memoir, however, Anh delves deeper into Uncle Six’s story. He discovers from his grandmother that Uncle Six was in fact not an adopted child—he was the love child of her husband, who had him with another woman while serving as a soldier during the Vietnam War. No one in the family, except Anh’s grandmother, knew this secret.
The discovery that Uncle Six is in fact not an adopted child, but a love child of Anh’s grandfather, suggests that there are skeletons in the family’s closet. Not everything is always as it seems in Anh’s family, as Anh himself comes to realize through Uncle Six’s story.
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On the show “Celebrity Deal or No Deal,” Anh wins $200,000 dollars, which goes to a man looking after his sick wife and two children. When Anh goes to hand the check to the couple, they are extremely grateful, and everyone is moved to tears.
Anh’s appearance on this show reflects yet another instance when Anh uses his celebrity to help others. Anh’s emphasis on benefitting others suggests that, like his brother Khoa, he has inherited his mother’s impulse for altruism. 
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Related Quotes
Anh continues to pick up television work: he is offered to do a travelogue on the Beijing Olympics. He appears on other shows, including the sports quiz show “The Squiz” and “Top Gear.” In the television show “Thank You,” he thanks his Year 8 teacher Mrs. Borny, who, back in St. Aloysius, had encouraged his storytelling talents. He surprises her one day in her classroom in the school, appearing with a camera crew to say thank you in person, fifteen years since he had himself been in her class.
Anh’s surprising of Mrs. Borny in her classroom points to the depths of the gratitude that Anh feels for this teacher, who encouraged him at a crucial point in his adolescence. Even after decades, Anh has not forgotten her. Anh’s thanking of Mrs. Borny indicates that he does not take for granted all the help and support he has received from others throughout his life.
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Throughout these successes, Anh continues to enjoy above all the company of his family—his wife Suzie and the three boys they have had together. His ties and bonds to his Vietnamese family also remain unbroken.
The prosperity and happiness that Anh finds not only in his caree, but also with his family has largely to do with the fact that Anh does not take his family for granted: he realizes that they are the bedrock of his happiness.
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