Chapter 1 Summary

He likes his family very much and it is about how his parents met during the aftermath of the Vietnam war in 1976. The setting starts on a train where Anh's mother is wondering up and down the train selling her goods. The atmosphere is depressing, Anh's mother is poor and performing a illegal act to try and get little money that could keep her alive. The atmosphere rises as she is about to get caught by the train guard, however a young lanky looking man saves her from the guard. The night in shining armour named Tam saves Hien and  6 months later Tam and Hien get married. After Anh set the scene with the meeting of his parents he continues to describe his other close relatives. Anh talks about his Dad and 2 uncles and their story of escaping a Vietnamese prison camp. Anh's Dad is described from the beginning of the biography as a brave and strong person. This is showed when Anh talks about how his Dad walked into a cold, damp and depressing prison camp with a uniform of a unknown guard, then walking out with his 2 uncles. Anh then includes a joke, "even Asians think we all look the same". In the first chapter Anh Do writes how he is proud to call himself a Do and gives examples of his family stories and how they impacted onto his life. Anh Do then shows how grateful he is for being Asian


Chapter 1 starts with the dictation of Ahn's mother's journey to sell fruit and snacks to support her family of 10 people including herself. Some guards come along and start causing trouble and harassing her, telling her to remove her clothing. They are stopped by a boy who acts in her defence. She falls in love with him and soon they are married and have Ahn. Chapter 1 continues with the stories of uncle Huy's narrow miss at death and uncle Thanh's time in a communist re-education camp. Uncle Huy and his friends got plastered the night before they had to leave for war, but they slept in and watched their boat explode on the horizon. Uncle Thanh contracted malaria and had to be treated by submerging his organs in salt water and he almost died. Later on Anh's grandmother shows how generous she is by taking in 2 more children after already needing to look after 6 others and also gives insight to the conditions of the life Ahn's father grew up with, how catching 3 little fish was a big success and how he hated the Soldiers. Chapter 1 finishes with the story of how Ahn's father saved uncles Thanh and Huy from the communist re-education camp by dressing up in a high ranked officers uniform and walked right in and took them right from under the communists no questions asked.


Strength and Identity. The themes of strength and identity are explored in chapter one through the characters’ development. The elders in Anh’s family express their strength through their perseverance. Strength is a key aspect in the identities of Tam Do and Uncle Thanh.

Tam’s bravado is a clear example of his exterior strength as his small acts of rebellion towards the communist guards ‘in defence’ of Hien shows that he is able to not only stand up for his rights but for other people’s rights. His love for Hien also pushes him to save her brothers from the re-education camp as he ‘takes matters into his own hands’ which is a clear example of leadership and motivation for a better future.

Uncle Thanh’s strength comes from his experience in the communist camp. Uncle Thanh’s ‘gentleness [is] masked [by] an incredible inner strength’ from his ability to survive the harsh conditions of the labour work and to survive an operation with no anaesthesia. Although he was living in fear of their deaths he still managed to persevere. His character shows that his demeanour is calm and benign that was built up from his strengths and fears.

Poverty vs Wealth
Chapter One also shows the social class difference between Anh’s family and the Vietcong people.
Anh’s mother had to illegally sell snacks on trains in order to keep her family of ten alive as they are ‘depending on her’. The contrast between those who were South Vietnamese and those who were born as North Vietnamese is shown through his parents originally being from South Vietnam. Because his mother had to find illegal ways to make money; it gives a clear understanding of how people were living and are still living in this era.
Tam’s family was also born into a poor family with a family of nineteen. Tam’s mother had to use a system of naming the children with number as it has ‘evolved in poor villages where large families [are] common.’ Anh’s parents experience of  life in poverty is also what pushes them to flee the country to prevent their children from facing the same terrors that they faced.


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Key Quote

'Their son-in-law may have been skinny with wonky teeth, but  his bravery, in the face of extreme danger was breathtaking.' (pg 10)

Anh's father went into the re-education camp dressed up as an 'high-ranking communist offcier' and went into the commaning officer's room demanding the two men in to room to be taken with him. The commanding officer didn't resist due to seeing that he was a higher ranking officer than him so anh's father walked out the camp with the two men. The two men were Anh's uncles.

Anh's father had such confidence to dress up as a officer and be able to take anh's uncles out of the camp showed a huge amount of bravery and plays a big role in the story line as Anh looks up to his father. This quote shows how family is very important to the story and anh's family as it has priority over other values in the story.

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