Ahn Do should be a national treasure -well perhaps that is a bit of a big call. Ahn Do appears to be a genuinely nice guy, both in his book and as a comedian who doesn’t rely on being incredibly offensive, using his capacity to reflect on his own experiences and see the humour and irony within. I also think Jimeoin is a comedian of a similar ilk.
I borrowed this book from our bookclub and thoroughly enjoyed it. It recounts the story of Ahn’s upbringing in Vietnam in the 1960s and his families brave journey to find refuge in another country. This is a timely book as the debate about refugees coming to Australia is never long out of the media. Much of it makes me ashamed of my fellow country men and women who’s mean spirits seem to forget their own origins. What has made our country special is the diversity of culture and the richness this brings to our lives. Australians have in the main been quick adapters to most things new, be that technology or food. Australians love to integrate new experiences into their world, experiment with different things. It is little wonder our cuisine has no definitive Australian stamp, we are a fusion of all things wonderful. Yes, I do realise that many folks think we have an ‘Australian Cuisine’, but I for one don’t and am proud of Australian chef’s knack for inventiveness and fresh ideas.
I digress as usual – Ahn’s families story illustrates something that I believe is common amongst all refugee families and makes them just like everyone else. That parents will make sacrifices in order to provide their children with opportunities to make a better life than the last generation. These sacrifices in the case of Ahn’s parents were significant, his mother worked very long hours for little pay. His father was so affected by his experiences in Vietnam and the hardship as a refugee that he appears to have had a breakdown when the Ahn and his brother were young. That Ahn had the courage and open heart to find some resolution later in life is a real credit to his character.
One of my favourite parts of the book was when Ahn’s mother on arriving in Australia dressed Ahn’s younger brother in girls clothing, as it was the only decent clothes that were his size; the photos are a real giggle. The book is definitely enhanced with the photographic essays. Ahn leaves us in a happy place by the end of the book, his courage and determination shine throughout the book. His example of going for what you believe in could be a lesson for all of us. Follow your dreams and they just might come true!
I thoroughly recommend this book, not only as a moving account of a family ravaged by war, displacement and starting anew with nothing. It also serves to show how a human being can rise above adversity, with no bitterness or regrets.