The Prologue

The Prologue is the opening scene of Anh Do's The Happiest Refugee. It is set when Anh is 22 years old and is driving down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne to visit his estranged father.

Chapter Outline

Anh is driving down the Hume Highway towards Melbourne. He describes his driving as significantly impaired by his nerves and 9 years of grief. ('A steering wheel wet from tears is a slippery object. I am sobbing uncontrollably') We learn he is going to see his Dad, whom he hasn't seen for 9 years. Anh's father, described as an abusive drunk walked out late one night when Anh was 13 ('I hated him when he was drunk... I feared him even.') and Anh is torn between fantasies of a happy reunion and 'head-butting the little Vietnamese prick.' He also comments that he 'miss[es] him dearly.' We are told that his Dad was once 'funny and charming' and that Anh 'could do anything' but Anh is angry that his Dad abandoned his Mum 'to look after three kids on an illiterate Vietnamese migrants wage.'

Anh arrives at his Dad's dilapidated housing commission apartment. A young women answers the door and Anh hears a baby cry. His Dad is almost exactly as he remembers him with the 'skinny little face, slightly wonky teeth and... dark eyes that could make you know you're loved and make you shit yourself at the same time.' Anh's Dad greets him with familiar affection and enthusiasm and a 'wave of familiarity and comfort hits [Anh] like a punch in the face. They drink beer at 9:30pm around a plastic table and Anh's Dad slaps him hard across the face with affection. Anh isn't sure if he is enjoying the experience. He wrestles 'inside with confusion... seething with anger and hatred and violence.'

Anh learns that his Dad has a tumour in his head. He contends that it is all to much to deal with and that his Dad named Anh's step brother after him-Anh.



Analysis Questions

1) Why is it significant for Anh that he is going to visit his father
2) Why do you think the narrative begins like this?
3) Do you think that Anh love’s his father?
4) How is Anh’s father described?
5) ‘Skinny little face, slightly wonky teeth and those dark eyes that can make you know you’re loved and make you shit yourself at the same time. How does this make you feel about Tam?
6) How does the fact his Dad has terminal cancer change how Anh’s see’s his Dad?

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