The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do is a memoir that tells the story of immigration from Vietnam in 1980 resulting from the terrors of the Vietnam war, displaying the hardships and conflicts that come from the journey of a refugee. Do displays resilience throughout his memoir multiple times in reaction to adversity, showing strength, bravery and endurance. He demonstrates a significant ability to bounce back and learn from these conflicts and as a result shaping his life and himself into the person he is today. In this essay I will outline the certain points of resilience that Do displays and how it shapes him into the person that he is today; The ability to recover and bounce back, Strength, and Adaptability.

Do displays a strong ability to learn from conflicts. All the major characters in the featured in the memoir playing a role in teaching him valuable lessons. Seeing what others did right in a situation and their personality traits rubbing off on him to shape him to be optimistic and have a constant positive attitude. This is displayed early in the memoir whilst Do and his family are on the boat fleeing Vietnam and being attacked multiple times by Pirates. Robbed of all survival resources and even the boat’s one remaining working engine, “They took everything, even our engine. Then they were gone, just like that. All was still. The silence was broken only by waves lapping at our boat and an old lady’s weeping.” (Do 21) This example displays the hopelessness of the situation, but even in this time of distress and hopelessness Anh’s father, Tam finds a glimmer of hope within his ingenuity and craftsmanship and repairs the one broken engine with a piece of rubber fashioned into a belt to replace the snapped belt. Eventually being rescued by a German merchant ship but still being left with the trauma of the experience. Do clearly displays these aspects of ingenuity and hopefulness in his personality he picks up from his father throughout the rest of the memoir. Thus, in turn benefiting his ability to keep a strong and hopeful frame of mind in the face of adversity, not being afraid of failure but willing to learn from his mistakes.

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Throughout the memoir, Do displays an adept ability to adapt to his environment and situation as a reaction to adversity. Specifically, during his early schooling years where racism was considerably more present within society, Anh was picked on and demoralised for having an accent and overall being of Vietnamese decent.

Do also displays the attributes of strength and endurance. Throughout his memoir the reader is constantly reminded of the strength and determination needed to strive toward the families end goal of achieving the best quality of life possible. An example of strength that Do displays is throughout his teenage years from the age of thirteen onwards, after the abandonment of his father, having to take on the responsibility of a strong supporter of his family, the man of the house. Though the teachers at his school notice the difficulties of his home life, Do never complained about his hardships and even denying benefits offered by the teachers, “I hated being on the receiving end of sympathy. I remember all through school being determined to prove that I could survive without any outside help.” (Do 109). This example clearly showing his strength and determination in proving himself to be capable despite the hardships he is confronted with behind the scenes.


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