When she was 16 years old, Carina escaped Vietnam on a wooden boat with her two siblings and 370 other people. She endured violent storms, pirate raids and severely unsanitary conditions to make it to Indonesia, only to find herself stranded on an uninhabited island for almost three months until being rescued by the UNHCR.
Carina was eventually resettled in the United States and moved to Perth five years ago with her husband and daughter, having made a pledge to raise awareness of ‘boat people’ and their stories. She enrolled at Murdoch University and completed her Honours thesis on the significance of memoirs to history.
Last year she released her first book, Boat People: Personal Stories from the Vietnamese Exodus 1975-1996, a series of 31 short stories by Vietnamese boat people, and nine stories by non-Vietnamese staff that work in various refugee camps in South East Asia. In June 2012, the book received an award as Best Regional Non-Fiction (Australia and New Zealand) in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards. Carina is now pursuing a PhD at Murdoch University, which will see her produce an oral history on the Vietnamese exodus.
Carina returned to Kuku Island as an adult to search for the remains of her cousin, who she had lost on the journey. When she posted photographs of some graves on her website, many Vietnamese people contacted her to find the graves of their relatives, mainly people who survived the high seas but succumbed to disease and malnutrition.
Carina is a strong advocate for UNHCRs work in supporting refugees from her direct experience. Her story can be found at www.carinahoang.com