Called “Tam Sida” (Tam AIDS), for the disease she is carrying, Tam writes about her abandoned childhood, her family, and the dark years of her life when she lived on the streets and became a drug addict at the age of 14. Not long after that, she started working as a prostitute to support herself and her sister.
Tam may look pale and thin, but for years she has dedicated her life to the fight against HIV/AIDS and has adopted and taken care of AIDS patients in their last days of life. She is currently taking care of four adopted children, three of whom have AIDS.
Tam said the book was a struggle with her painful memories and difficult youth. “On many sleepless nights, I woke up and turned on the old computer. I kept writing what I could remember and what I was thinking without stopping, even for a hyphen, a full stop or capitalizing the letters. I wrote from my memory.”
The strong woman and social worker said that she stopped going to school after grade 10, thus she does not know how to use a computer well. She didn’t write much before starting to tell her story, therefore “it took me eight years, from 2004 till now to finish the book.”
Tam started writing about her life then when she met Petra, a German social worker who used to work for the Ho Chi Minh AIDS Prevention Committee and encouraged her to share her experiences.
Called “Autobiography of Tam Sida – beyond the death”, the 300-page plus publication paints Tam’s life through six parts, starting with “A lost childhood”, “An unsteady life”, “Turning over a new page” and “The children”.
Tran Cong Binh, Child Protection Officer of Unicef Vietnam, said he had a chance to work with Tam and was thrilled with her steady progress. “She has overcome many difficulties in work and life and contributed a lot to our community. In this fast changing life, we need to open our hearts to these people to create a better and friendlier society.”
At the book launch, a number of individuals and organizations supported Tam financially, gave her books and a laptop and promised to finance a heart operation for one of her children, and another’s school fees and food.
Tam said the more she received from these generous people, the more she felt she owed this life. “I have to try much harder to be a better person. I have the disease myself and worry who will take care of my children when I die.
“I am planning to write another book about my life, about what I have done. The book may be called ‘The light at the end of the tunnel’,” Tam said.
Hong Tam will have a signing session at the upcoming 7th Ho Chi Minh Book Festival from March 18-24 at Le Van Tam Park, Ho Chi Minh City.