Undaunted is a harrowing story of unimaginable loss, horrible abuse, and unspeakable tragedy. For a young orphaned Vietnamese girl, living in a war torn country, growing up is the hardest journey. She flees an army of demons, ghostly soldiers, false friends, conniving and dangerous relatives, callous bureaucrats, and a complex, endless war that ensnared a whole nation. She struggles to endure a life of impossible circumstances and situations, until help comes through from a miraculous spiritual intervention.
"Life makes orphans of us all. Some of us get a head start. I should begin this story when I was born, but I don’t know exactly when that was and those who could tell me are long gone, as is the world we once shared. It probably doesn’t matter. Ours is an old story begun afresh each day in war zones around the world. Orphans are one big family that seldom gets to meet. We know only those who hold our hands and we have only two of those. This book is about the two kinds of 'sisters' who held mine.
"The first are the little girls, strong women, weak women, kind or cruel women, and old ladies who, being real or spiritual sisters, guided me from ignorance and despair to some kind of peace and understanding in my life. The second are the angels who watch over us from eons before our birth to what, sooner or later, will become the end of time."
Van B. Choat was born Nguyen Thi Hien in the village of Rach Gia, southwest of Saigon. Orphaned at age four in a bloody Viet Cong massacre in 1964, Van begins a heart-breaking odyssey that takes her from the loving care of her stoic grandmother to foster homes where relatives both nurture and abuse her.
Her maternal grandparents—once wealthy landowners in North Vietnam—fled south after the French defeat in 1954 and the establishment of Ho Chi Minh’s communist regime. Like her older brother Quang and younger sister Thuy, Van saw her father only a handful of times before he disappeared in a battle that also took their mother’s life.
Orphaned by war, Van and her siblings were shuttled among a variety of custodians whose guardianship ranged from her grandmother’s stoic love to open abuse by other relatives. Later, her Aunt Thu married an older American who adopted the orphaned children: beginning a decade-long flight from the war and a narrow escape from massacre during a brief stay in the Philippines. Back in Vietnam, Van’s hopes for a new life were crushed by a near-fatal collision on the eve of Saigon’s collapse.
Relocating with her adoptive parents to a small Texas town, Van worked two part-time jobs and graduated high school with honors, winning a Pell Grant to Oklahoma State University. Eventually she married her high-school sweetheart, Ronnie Choat—a U.S. Army paratrooper. Over the next few years, she gave him two sons before Ronnie died.
Left alone to raise two boys, Van moved to Atlanta in 1990 and took a job with the VA, completing her undergraduate studies and earning a BA in business. Returning to Oklahoma she began to work for the Air Force Logistics Command at Tinker AFB, entering the Air Force’s Outstanding Scholar Internship Program to obtain an MS in Management and credentials as an Air Force Contracting Officer. In 2005, she transferred to the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles to serve as a Deputy Chief of several acquisition divisions, a position she holds today.
In the News
Book Publicists of Southern California's IRWIN Award to Van B. Choat for The Most Inspirational Book of the Year
Van B. Choat visiting the Phuong Nam Book Co. Ltd. booth at BookExpo in Chicago. She would later receive a Foreign Rights and Publishing offer for the Vietamese language edition from the Vietnam publisher.
Van Choat at the 2016 Los Angeles Times Festival of Books with Irwin Zucker, Founder of Book Publicists of Southern California