Reviews & media
How one determined Vietnamese orphan
carved out a place for himself in America
A young Vietnamese boy flees war-torn Vietnam for the United States and struggles to achieve independence in this novelistic debut biography.
Carlin, an executive in the health care and retail industries, tells the story of his colleague Long and Long’s older brother, Duc, who grew up in Vietnam during the war without parents in a village where this was common; many were the abandoned children of local sex workers and American soldiers. When the North Vietnamese forces overwhelmed Saigon in 1975, the brothers were rescued by U.S. soldiers and flown to America, where they received temporary shelter at Camp Pendleton in California. They were then moved to a series of foster homes, typically families only interested in financial compensation; they were denied affection or hospitality and often made to work like servants; at one point, Long ran away, but he soon returned out of concern for his sibling. Long also experienced sexual abuse in one home, Carlin writes. Long devoted himself to the goal of financial independence, working indefatigably, living frugally, and learning how to invest. The author chronicles Long’s triumph over adversity with clarity.. Long’s life is cinematically eventful; the obstacles he had to overcome as a child were daunting, and the account of his later success is extraordinary; indeed, it’s impossible to read this biography and not be inspired by his perseverance.
San Francisco Book Review–5 stars
Undeterred is a story I promise you won’t forget. Author Bruce Carlin relays the remarkable tale of a man named Long, a Vietnamese orphan, who overcame incredible odds to be where he is today. Long’s story is the epitome of the American Dream; coming from quite literally nothing to a fifty-million-dollar fortune, Long’s story is extraordinary. A novel you don’t want to miss out on, I would recommend this book to all readers, especially those who enjoy success stories.
Long’s story begins with him and his older brother, Duc. Orphans during the Liberation of Saigon, Duc and Long took care of each other and relied on the elderly in their village for food and support. Unfortunately, as the soldiers and tanks moved closer to their village, Long and Duc, two very young boys, find themselves running further and further from their town in fear. They find a group of children and before long, find themselves with American soldiers on the way to Malaysia, the first stop to make it to the United States. The soldiers are kind and Long and Duc are eventually placed in Camp Pendleton. Here, the boys learn English and are assigned mentors to help them learn American customs. From Camp Pendleton, the boys are moved to various foster care homes for the entirety of their childhood. This was by no means easy on them; often seen as either free labor, or an extra paycheck, they both had to put up with mistreatment, unfavorable jobs, and always had to be polite regardless of unfair situations. From these experiences, Long decides he must learn to be financially independent. Having to depend on foster families is not something he wants to continue. At age fifteen, Long is able to land himself a janitorial job, working nights cleaning office buildings to start accumulating his fortune. He soon realizes that the true gift isn’t his janitorial job; it’s reading the financial magazines he finds in the office wastebaskets which teach him how to invest. The road is only uphill from here. By putting in an incredible amount of hard work and dedication, Long is able to work his way up from janitor to cannon crewman to financial analyst and more. He saves every penny he makes and invests it all, knowing that his frugality will pay off. From finding love to reuniting with lost loved ones, and making millions, Long’s story is not only inspiring but has something of interest for all.
5 – Stars, Readers’ Favorite
Reviewed by Manik Chaturmutha for Readers’ Favorite
Undeterred: How One Determined Vietnamese Orphan Carved Out a Place for Himself in America by Bruce Carlin is a biographical survival story of a boy who runs away from a precarious situation to survive and thrive. Long is stuck in Vietnam during the worst of the
Vietnam War. He must decide whether to stay in his war-torn country or escape to the United States. He flees to America, but it wasn’t easy after that. Long has to fight many wars alone to be able to belong in a new country. He spends a tough childhood in various foster homes, never really finding a family who could make him one of their own. As time passes, he works at odd jobs to make a living, but an interest in reading financial magazines provides an opportunity to prosper. What does it take for Long to reach the peak of success from such painful beginnings?
From the outset, Bruce Carlin makes the atmosphere of a conflict-ridden Vietnam authentic and pulse-quickening. One wants to see Long escape this hell, but it becomes almost impossible. The
overarching theme of the book is survival and how Long makes it out of one tight spot after the other. His experiences are conveyed in a straightforward and impactful manner, making one’s heart go out to him. The foster system in America, which can be a painful journey for many, is explored in detail. Every time one thinks Long has found a home, it turns out that he hasn’t. The story does require resilience on the part of the reader, but respite is provided when Long’s life starts improving. The movement from difficulty to success is gradual but exciting. The story demonstrates that it is possible for anyone, anywhere, to be able to turn their life around
through perseverance and unshakeable faith.
Readers who enjoy biographies, survival, or success stories, especially with a political background, will enjoy Undeterred.
Through this succinct but deeply moving account, Carlin relays the story of Long, a Vietnamese-American man who has been a close professional associate of Carlin’s since 2007. Long, an orphan from Vietnam, along with his half-brother Duc, escaped the horrors of the Vietnam war when they were rescued by American soldiers. After reaching the states, the brothers faced another set of grim challenges, shuttling from one foster home to another, trying first to assimilate and then to thrive in American society. Long’s success is hard won, vividly described, and certain to make readers cheer.
This heart-warming story will resonate with anyone fascinated by immigrant stories or seeking inspiration and motivation to fight all odds and achieve their goals. It is evident that Carlin has taken great pains to understand and accurately depict Long’s arduous, transformative journey from an orphan in Vietnam to, eventually, a multi-millionaire in America. Striking details like the time Long spent in libraries, researching success stories, or the Camel cigarettes that Vietnamese women bartered to rescue their sons from the clutches of the South Vietnamese army–Long recalls the brand from the image on the packages– lend the account convincing power. As the story progresses from Long’s childhood in Vietnam to the rest of his life in America, the pace of the narrative also quickens, at times even rushing through key events, such as Long facing the aftermath of a family tragedy.
Still, the memoir finds its rhythm by the end, laying out details of how Long wooed his future wife Loan. In the last chapter, Long and Loan run into a woman from Long’s past in Hong Kong. The woman, Ba Phuong, had nurtured Long and his brother as her own children when they were growing up as orphans in Vietnam. This incident brings the story full circle and ties the narrative together through a satisfying end.
Takeaway: The inspiring story of a Vietnamese orphan who became an American multi-millionaire.
Great for fans of: Kelli Nguyen-Ha’s Immigrant Millionaire, Qian Julie Wang’s Beautiful Country.
5 – Stars, Readers’ Favorite
Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers’ Favorite
Undeterred is the tale of a Vietnamese orphan who became the classic American success story due to a combination of hard work, courage, and undeniable will. Written by Bruce Carlin, this book is the true rags-to-riches tale of Long, a Vietnamese orphan who fled Saigon with his older brother Duc as a kid in 1975 when Communists took over the city, leaving people like him at the
mercy of the American soldiers. After arriving in America, Long and Duc went through a string of foster homes, struggling to assimilate into any of those families. At long last, the brothers arrive in California, where misfortune strikes and Duc is declared brain dead after an unfortunate accident. Now alone and facing despair, Long digs deep and commits himself to survive, accumulating $57,000 by graduation at the age of 21, after which he delves into investments.
Undeterred is the prime example of following one’s heart with sheer willpower and determination to achieve the dreams of a lifetime, something many successful immigrants have done in America – the land of opportunities. Author Bruce Carlin tells the unfiltered life story of his friend and colleague, Long, a Vietnamese orphan who carved out his own place in America and found his destiny. Carlin’s narrative draws a moving portrait of children who find themselves
at the mercy of foster homes in the US, showcasing how difficult it is for most of them to break through the system and make a life for themselves. An inspiring tale to invigorate readers and one that I highly recommend.
5 – Stars, Readers’ Favorite
Reviewed by Joe Wisinski for Readers’ Favorite
Undeterred: How One Determined Vietnamese Orphan Carved Out a Place for Himself in America by Bruce Carlin is the story of a Vietnamese immigrant who came to the United States as a young boy. This true account begins with 5-year-old Long, along with his older brother, Duc, escaping from Viet Nam near the end of the war. They were taken to Camp Pendleton in California. The boys then lived in a series of foster homes, mostly being treated poorly by their foster parents and families. Even when his family circumstances improved, Long was bullied in school because of his heritage. He dreamed of becoming rich and worked day and night in a series of positions, both as an employee and an entrepreneur. Long exceeded his financial goals, becoming a wealthy man. The book concludes with Long’s investment advice.
Undeterred is an excellent title for this book. Anyone who reads it is sure to be inspired by how a young boy arrived in the United States penniless and with only his older brother to accompany him. Bruce Carlin is a fine writer who tells Long’s story with compassion and enthusiasm. Readers will be educated about what life was like for Vietnamese immigrants and inspired to better their own lives. The book is also worth reading to learn about Long’s investment principles, which he developed over many years and which he credits with helping him become a financial success. I highly recommend this exceptional book.