Safe Space

Alyssa Huynh

Safe Space
Format
Paperback
Publisher
Simon & Schuster Australia
Country
Australia
Published
5 June 2024
Pages
304
ISBN
9781761421518

Safe Space

Alyssa Huynh

‘I’ve played the role of the quiet and embarrassed Asian girl who shyly laughs along more than I should have in my lifetime. Enough is enough.’

Growing up, Alyssa Huynh heard stories from her family about their journey from Vietnam to Australia following the fall of Saigon and the racism they experienced upon arrival. While the discrimination she faced was different, she never quite felt like she belonged either.

Longing for a safe space, she turned to the internet. Through sharing her writing online, she created a supportive community for fellow Asians and people of colour with similar experiences, as well as for allies.

When some of her views went viral, important conversations were sparked, but there was also racist backlash – showing her that the work was necessary and her voice had impact.

Honest and heartfelt, Safe Space is unapologetically angry and sincerely hopeful. Alyssa explores the challenges she has faced as an Asian-Australian and those that made her the advocate she is today. She also offers practical advice, both to those who are victims of racism and wish to add their voice to the discourse or deepen their connection to their cultural identities, and to allies who want learn more about how they can meaningfully show their support.

Review

In this candid collection of essays, Melbourne‑based Vietnamese-Australian author Alyssa Huynh gives a lesson in empathy. Her writing on a lifetime experience of continued racism is both poignant and directed to us all. Everyone needs to read this book.

Huynh addresses the issue of stereotypes in her work using personal and historical examples to illustrate her points. In her essay ‘Not Your Asian Fetish’ she frankly discloses past relationship disasters, writes about various pop-culture shows and movies (shame on The Office and so many others) that have amplified harmful projections, and shares exactly how all of this makes her feel about herself. This is not a Huynh pity show, but rather a bold testament to what it is like to live in this country as a person of colour.

Her writing is clear, and her anger and dismay visceral. So should yours be, if it isn’t already. Her final essay, ‘The Trust Game’, should be mandatory reading for everyone. In it, Huynh guides us through a variety of situations that arise when people encounter racism or are accused of being racist. To the latter, she offers advice: take a moment to breathe. Look at what is happening. Do not gaslight. Listen more than you speak. Have an uncomfortable conversation. Create a safe space.

This powerful set of essays knocks down any complacent attitudes Australians may share about racism. It is a straight-talking narrative from a powerful writer who has had enough, yet has the grace and fortitude to ask us to consider our attitudes and to create an environment based on humanity rather than race. It is a book for people who have experienced racism, for those who wish to be advocates against it, and for those who strive to be allies. This book holds within its covers a determined and practical view of how we can all be better; how we can, indeed, do better. Thank you, Alyssa Huynh.

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