Walk Around the Tree

This inspiring autobiography of a war child vividly details her triumphs over every hardship, from polio in Vietnam to a love story in America

by Diem Ai Nguyen & Charlie Roberts

Walk Around the Tree

Walk Around the Tree

This inspiring autobiography of a war child vividly details her triumphs over every hardship, from polio in Vietnam to a love story in America

by Diem Ai Nguyen & Charlie Roberts

Published Jan 18, 2012
142 Pages
Genre: BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Personal Memoirs


Book Details

Coming of Age in Vietnam and America

        On a moonlit night shining with mystery and wonder, four-year-old Diem Nguyen picks up a sparkling pebble from the ground…and unknowingly takes into her hand the seeds of a catastrophic illness that will change her life forever. Diem’s body is ravaged by polio, but although her body is crippled, her remarkable spirit transcends the limitations of her body, and she finds ways to live joyfully, creatively, lovingly…with a boundless spirit of adventure. Diem teaches herself to walk again through sheer strength of will (and a little help from an angel who visits her in a dream).

        You will be spellbound by the vivid tales of her childhood in Vietnam, surviving hardships while her father is in prison for conspiring with the Americans during the war, and then enjoying beauty, community, and independence when her family moves to a special community in the jungle, where Diem’s array of skills from salt-making to music-making allow her to start a unique business.

        Diem can’t imagine a better life than the jungle, but everything changes when her father is given special help to bring his family to America. After settling in Texas, new challenges and new opportunities await Diem. With her trademark determination and innovation, Diem learns English and goes to college to earn her degree—without ever having set foot in a school before! Her achievements are enhanced by the transcendent experience of falling in love…but life has some unexpected lessons for Diem that not even a college degree can give to her.

        Told with tenderness, humor, and honesty, Walk Around the Tree is a memoir that will inspire and delight from the first page to the last. Diem’s indomitable spirit, positive attitude, and love of life shine through every word. Take a walk with Diem, first around her childhood tree, and then further into the depths of the jungle, the vastness of America, and the secrets of the human heart. With Diem as your companion and guide, life will never look quite the same again.

        Outskirts Press


About the Author

Diem Ai Nguyen & Charlie Roberts

        I felt truly honored the day Diem announced she had started her autobiography, because she was asking me to help her write it. Her story is so unusual and fascinating -- sharing the process of putting it all together was as exhilarating as a carnival ride.

        I had met Diem more than ten years earlier, under the shade of a tree in a grassy park where a mockingbird sang delightfully above our heads. Diem smiled at me as she pointed up into the tree and exclaimed “Chim!” (the Vietnamese word for “bird”). That was the full extent of our first conversation. Soon, I had the good fortune to be one of the first people to help her learn English. Diem and I have stayed neighbors and close friends ever since, during which time she has told me many stories about her life in Vietnam. And I never stop wanting to hear more.

        Most of this book was written by Diem, after which she handed the manuscript to me to “improve” (as she put it). I went carefully through all her words, intent on making the events of her life easier to understand, creating a smoother, simpler, and more “flowing” story. At the same time, I inserted details she’d left out, and added several more stories, all from memory of things she’d been telling me over the years.

        Then it was Diem’s turn to play “editor,” and she proved surprisingly quick to point out anything I had misunderstood or not remembered correctly. Her book HAD to be accurate! It HAD to be correct! So for several months, we took turns playing writer, editor, and critic until everything was perfect -- until we had a book that was easy to read and understand: a book that was smooth and flowing, a book that was the accurate story of Diem’s unusual life.

        Charlie Roberts