Nhi Aronheim’s Soles of a Survivor: A Memoir (Skyhorse, 288 pp. $24.99, hardcover; $16.99, Kindle) is a worthy autobiography. In it, Aronheim tells the story of her escape from post-war Vietnam and resettlement and eventual success in the United States. Aronheim, who fled her native country in 1987 when she was 12 years old, shows herself to be a motivated, highly driven individual.
She was born into a large, prominent family near Da Nang. Her father was a respected physician who also treated injured American troops during the war.
When communist forces took control of the entire country in the spring of 1975, her father was taken to a re-education camp and soldiers marched through the family’s well-appointed home taking anything of value. They said that under Communism everyone was equal and no one should have too much wealth. Eventually, the father left the family and Aronheim, her mother, and her siblings were forced to leave their home.
As the family was about to be sent to a re-education camp, her mother bribed a bus driver to take them to Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. Arriving with only the clothes on their backs, they lived illegally in one room. Aronheim earned money for the family by selling counterfeit cigarettes.
Her mother longed for the opportunity for the family to escape, but knew it would be too difficult to attempt it as a group. So, in total secrecy, she helped her twelve-year-old daughter cross the border into Cambodia with the hope of getting to America. At this point in the memoir, we have reached the end of the first chapter, with nineteen more to go.
The book’s title is how Aronheim’s husband refers to her feet as a result of all the walking she did during her escape. It was a harrowing experience, during which, she says, she found herself “staring down death time after time,” and that each time was “as terrifying as it was the first time.” She spent time in a refugee camp in Thailand, and remembers watching showings of “ET” and “The Sound of Music” without her or anyone around her understanding what was going on.
Against heavy odds, this young woman managed to make it out of the refugee camp and fly to the U.S. where she thrived academically and went on to good jobs in telecommunications and the mortgage industry, and then became a wife and mother. This book celebrates a life of achievement that started in most unlikely fashion.
More and more stories are now being told by Vietnamese refugees who have made the best they could of their lives while also helping make America a better place to live. Nhi Aronheim says she hopes her book will encourage readers “to never give up, never give in, and always stay positive.”
Examples of how she lived that philosophy can be found on nearly every page of this inspiring book.
The author’s website is nhiaronheim.com