Mai Elliott, a graduate of Georgetown University and resident of Claremont, California, was born and raised in Vietnam. Upon graduating from Georgetown, she returned to Saigon, where she worked for the Rand Corporation interviewing Viet Cong prisoners of war and defectors for a research project to determine the morale and motivation of the guerrillas during the Vietnam War. In the years following her move to the United States she made several trips to Vietnam. After a long career in corporate banking, she resigned her job to write her family story, The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1999 (under the name of Duong Van Mai Elliott). The Sacred Willow was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the Asian-American Literary Award in the year 2000.