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Bibliophile | ‘Safe Space’ is a call for Australians to wake up to racism

Safe Space
by Alyssa Huynh
Simon & Schuster

Recently, the chief political correspondent for the ABC’s 7.30 current affairs television program, Laura Tingle, was shouted down for saying that Australia is a racist country at the Sydney Writers’ Festival … and it has been reported that she has been counselled by the ABC.

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Growing up Vietnamese in Australia, thirty year-old Alyssa Huynh writes that she has struggled with her cultural identity. Continual casual racism, disguised as Aussie humour, led her to being ashamed about her Asian heritage, stripping her of the pride that she later realised she should have held onto.

Huynh’s grandparents had left Saigon with their four children in 1979 as refugees. So Huynh, who has never known her father, was actually born in Australia. She doesn’t speak Vietnamese and internalized racism meant that she didn’t have any friends who were Asian as she grew up.

In her book, she writes that it was like she didn’t belong anywhere, and it took a toll on her identity as she was spending time trying to be accepted and finding that she was just existing.

Huynh says that she became used to people dismissing and denying the covert and overt acts of racism. “Dismissing our pain, our experience, our stories that many of us never get the chance to find a safe place to unload and unpack our trauma, confusion and frustration.”

Sick of playing the quiet and embarrassed Asian girl who laughed along more than she should have, Huynh used her social media platform to address racial injustice and spark conversations about racial and social justice issues in 2020.

With the explosion of anti-Asian hate brought on by Covid, Huynh decided to belatedly embrace her Asian culture and community and speak out about the gas lighting and other tactics used to silence people who called out the problem.

Safe Space is a call to action for Australians to wake up and see that Laura Tingle was right when she said that, as a nation, we have a problem with racism.

“This is a book for anyone who believes that racism has no place in Australia’s future and is ready to take action.”

Lezly Herbert

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