At a recent gathering of the Writers’ Group, we discussed the many things needed to inspire one’s writing, and one thing which came through strongly was the need to read. Indeed, this was one of the many things emphasised by this week’s major winner of the Australian Book Industry Awards for 2011, Ahn Do.
‘The Happiest Refugee’ is Anh’s memoir – his journey from Vietnam as a young child, to a far away country. It reflects the struggles, torments and challenges faced by a refugee child.
For someone who had trouble reading and writing at school, to win not one, but three awards is a major achievement. In his acceptance of the awards, he credits much of his success to developing a love for reading; which was well supported by his mother (including buying second hand books from Vinnies). This must have been a vital step to learn his second language, English.
In an interview transcribed on the ABC’s AM site, Anh Do spoke about rising above early problems he had in school, and the determination to do well in his new homeland, encouraged by his family. Now, he is also encouraged by people who have enjoyed his book, which is a mixture of happy and sad events. It seems his story of rising above life’s many challenges speaks to many.
While it has been suggested by some that Anh had a ghost writer, he explains that he did have help recording and organising his thoughts and experiences for the early drafts of his book. Credit has been given to journalist and writer, Michael Visontay, who has been acknowledged in the book. However, Do and his publishers state that the final manuscript is his work.
In view of the ABIA accolades and past awards* received for ‘the Happiest Refugee’, the final word remains with the author, Anh Do:
“(So) to win Book of the Year after being a kid who had issues with reading and writing it means that maybe I’m not so bad at it.”
# Think about it, why is it important to read as a writer? What sort of books do you read that influence your writing?
* other awards include the Indie Book of the Year Award 2011 and being shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.
Postscript – I just came across another blog which talked about the importance of reading for your writing – see those ideas here.