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When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace
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When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,734 ratings  ·  188 reviews
It is said that in war heaven and earth change places not once, but many times. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is the haunting memoir of a girl on the verge of womanhood in a world turned upside down. The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters langed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Viet ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Plume (first published April 29th 1989)
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35th out of 192 books — 384 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rebecca
This book is the closest I have ever come to understanding the horror of war. You are in the story and with her the whole time.
Eric_W
Part of the problem reading history is that sometimes one tends to look at the overall picture; the strategic view, rather than the impact of an event on the individual Le Ly Hayslip has recounted her family's personal experiences during the Vietnam war from the perspective of those caught in the middle. Her story portrays the agony of the destruction of a centuries-old way of life and the ruination of a country. The village she lived in, Ky La, was just a tiny fanning village, one surely no one ...more
Kathy
If you are planning a trip to Vietnam....this book is a must read. Author wrote her memoir in 1989, telling of her childhood during the Vietnam War. Family members served on different sides. Continues to her life as a young woman surviving in the war torn country....and then her escape to the United States. She returns to Vietnam in 1986, to visit family and to gather material for her book. How had life changed? Who do you trust. I thank Nancy B. for recommending this book. What will we find whe ...more
Michael Andersen-Andrade
There are no winners or losers in war, just victims and survivors. Le Ly Hayslip brings the agony and hardship of the Vietnam War to life. I read this book in and around Da Nang, where much of the book takes place. Her book brought those streets and villages alive and populated them with the ghosts of her family and her people. Vietnam was forever altered by the war. While all sides contributed to the suffering, it is clear that the United States had no business in Vietnam and its rationalizatio ...more
Kay
We all know war is a bad thing, but reading this book really gives an insight as to how it damages the land over which its raged. The way community and life is ripped to pieces and the fabric of society unravels and is rewoven as something less appealing is well portrayed. To come through this and be able to share the story as well as attempt to rebuild and heal says a lot for the authoress.

The violence is never glorified, nor is the atrocities, but told in a way that taps into your emotions and
...more
Tammy Stathelson
This is actually the first book I think I have ever read about the Vietnam War. It certainly gives a different perspective than that of an American GI. I have always believed this war was simply about the spread of communism and how we, the American People, had to stop it at all cost. Those were some pretty high costs and I don't think we accomplished much of anything except the loss of life on both the American and Vietnamese sides.
Kirei
This book was hard to read at times, so I put it down and took a break from torture, rape, and the horrible deaths contained in its pages. However, it is DEFINITELY worth reading to get one woman's viewpoint of the situation in Vietnam during the sixties. I like that she seems unbiased. She does not particulary seem to take the side of the North, or the South, or the Americans. (Although she did become American, and seems patriotic to both Viet Nam and the U.S.)

If you live in a country where vi
...more
Adna
I found an old summary/review of this book when I read it as a school assignment:

After Le Ly Hayslip's brother Bon went North she began to pay more attention to her father, and they became closer and closer. She found out about new, loving side of him, and very protective and strong person. Because of his honesty, his empathy, and his openness to people, he understood life deeply. He was the more understanding parent.

"... even as a parent, my father was more lenient than our mother, and we som
...more
Victoria
Le Ly writes two intersecting stories: One is of her time growing up in war-torn Vietnam (she was born in 1949) with her large family. She gives us a taste of what a farm girl in Vietnam's life is like, the struggles she had to endure time and time again, and the lust of man throughout it all. The second is of her visit back to her family in Vietnam in 1986, after being in the US since 1970.

I have read a bunch of books written by people who were children or teens in wars in Asian countries, but
...more
Gabriel Oak
Most American fiction and nonfiction about the war in Vietnam is really about American domestic conflict. Vietnamese characters are rare and often caricatured. It's really important to remember and try to understand the people whose lives were most devastated by the war, and Le Ly Hayslip's classic memoir is a good place to start. It's not beautifully crafted, but it's earnestness is beautiful in its own way.

Hayslip aided the Viet Cong in her rural village before circumstances led her to be ost
...more
Megan
Jul 22, 2007 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
This is the truly amazing story of a woman who grew up in central vietnam during the war and eventually found her way to America. Excellently written, terrifying and extremely poignant, it's hard to believe that anyone could go through so much and still have any faith in the human spirit. Seriously--it's sounds like depressing subject matter, but this is a must read.
Jessica
I read this book for a class that I'm taking, and I'm glad I did, because I wouldn't have picked up a book like this myself. It is about war, and if I'm being honest, I try to stay away from books like that because it hurts to read how much war affects people.

This book was about how a young girl Le Ly(the author) survived the Vietnam war, and it went into detail about so many things that I wish didn't ever happen to anyone. This is the story of Le Ly's childhood, and how she managed to escape, a
...more
Brett Masters
I had to read a memoir on the Vietnam War for a class at school, so I chose this one. I am very glad that I took this class because otherwiseI would've never even heard of this book. This shows more in depth into the Vietnamese side of the war, and it's especially interesting because it kind of shows it from the perspective of all sides. As a child, the main character helps the Vietcong, then a series of circumstances cause her to transition to a role that does not necessarily support the Vietco ...more
Christina
Storyline interesting. It got a bit tedious in the middle of the book - a bit too much detail of the same type of events over and over. The cruelty of the war was heartbreaking, but there was something about the writing style that I didn't absolutely love..can't really pinpoint it, just thought it was meh. I found myself doing a lot of skimming through the last 100 pages or so.

It definately gave me a different perspective on the Vietnam War. I think it is important to learn about any conflict f
...more
Jim Drewery
The author does a splendid job of revealing to the reader the horrors of war and how the untold casualties of any war are inevitably not just those who serve in combat, but the millions of innocent people whose lives are forever uprooted and irrevocably altered by the hell on earth that is war. She shows clearly how war is very much like a terrible disease which devours the humanity from its participants and shows no mercy to any innocent which has the misfortune to end up in its path. Through ...more
Shannon
In the epilogue to this book--a tale of seemingly unending devastation; a book recounting one woman's experience with the total warping and decimation of the entire country of Vietnam; a tale in which each page seems to offer a fresh perspective on fresh horrors and the fresh ripping-apart of ancient cultural bonds and loving families by both "sides" as it were, of the war--the author, Le Ly Hayslip, offers these simple paragraphs:

"In this book, I have tried to show how we peasants survived--and
...more
Rob
This book is a very moving account of what it was like for many Vietnamese who lived in the war zone of South Vietnam.

While this is the very moving account of Le Ly Hayslip's life, it could probable be retold buy any number of women who have lived in the war zones of Iraq or Afghanistan, or any other half dozen countries around the world.

While many events took place in Ms Hayslip's life (and certainly any number could have been the source of great personal devastation to someone of lessor inner
...more
David P
A remarkable, fascinating autobiography by a Vietnamese woman. Le Ly was a peasant girl in a rice-paddy village near Danang, and she lived precariously throughout the Vietnam war. It is all there--Viet-Cong terror, escape to the city, life on the fringes of the US army, also poverty, temptation, violent death and rape, as well as insights into Vietnam's culture, centering on Buddhist traditions and warm extended families.

It is strong stuff, made just a bit more palatable by the way Le Ly inter
...more
William
Like Sorrows of War this was another fascinating look into the lives of the Vietnamese during the 1960’s & 70’s. In this book we even get a bit of a glimpse into French occupation in the 50’s.
The perspective of Le Ly is filed with both emotion and a stiff upper lip. She shows a lot of grit and inner strength during episodes of extreme trauma and her saga is both inspiring and sad on many levels.
My only complaint is that at times I felt she tended to ramble and give numerous examples that m
...more
The Literary Bystander
Jan 01, 2013 The Literary Bystander marked it as will-come-back-to-someday
Okay I am just going to put this as DNF because it has been on my currently reading list for way too long and considering how many other books I've zoomed past while this stayed the same for so long, yeah... it's probably saying something.

It's not the case, like Little Dorrit where I couldn't finish because it was just mind-numbingly uninteresting for me to continue. I think I'm just in some reading slump/being a major procrastinator and overall lazy bum. We can all crucify me later.

I will proba
...more
Samuel Burt

When heaven and earth changes is an emotional roller coaster of former Viet-Cong member Le Ly Hayslip. The book is split between present and past memories in her life, telling you about her memories then crossing over to present time telling of her risky visit back to her hometown. This memoir has a large amount of emotion as this young girl grows up in a dark world surrounded by the Vietnamese-American war, knowing nothing else.The reader is also informed with the tactics the North and South
...more
Megan Brizzell
For my research paper on Vietnam I chose to read the book "When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace". Though at times the book was extremely graphic, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The narrator, Le Ly, is the youngest of six children born to peasant farmers in Ka Ly, a town on the central coast of Vietnam. Since she is the sixth child, her name actually means "sixth child" so her parents would know who she is. She has a close relationship with her parents, w
...more
Jileen
Definitely a book that keeps you turning pages. And just when you think it can't get any worse... it does.

My father fought in the Vietnam war and never really talked about it. He did have tons of slides (you know, the old slide/projector shows before VCRs...) It was very interesting to me to learn about this foreign country that I saw so many slides of. Their culture, the beliefs, the ideals that were important to Vietnamese families and their ancestors. Fascinating!

I have felt so badly for the
...more
David Cupples
Another book I read in Vietnam around the time of the Millennium (or shortly thereafter). It is of course the basis for the Oliver Stone movie Heaven and Earth and the author, Le Ly Hayslip, the model for the film's main character. How cool that Stone one way or the other stumbled up Hayslip's book and decided to turn it into a movie. How cool also to read a book about Vietnam written by a Vietnamese. In my recollection she took pains to be even-handed when it came to dishing against both sides, ...more
Kelly Lynn Thomas
Reading for my Vietnam Travel Seminar. I would recommend this for anyone who's read a little bit of literature about the Vietnam war from the U.S. perspective, as this book gives you the Vietnamese perspective.

The first 90 pages or so go a bit slow as she sets up the culture and establishes what it means to be a poor village farmer in Vietnam. And then horrible things start to happen, and don't stop happening until the end. The author's village, Ky La, is forced to declare loyalty to one side d
...more
Billy Marino
This book was both hard to put down and sometimes hard to keep reading. It is great for anyone who is interested in learning about the Vietnam War, and for those who just want to read a gripping personal story of a woman suffering through countless hardships but managing to be a compassionate and understanding person. I read this book as part of a class on the Vietnam War, and found it to be a great component to view the war from the the eyes of those it was supposedly being fought for. Le Ly Ha ...more
Claire
I was assigned this book for a college course, and at first I figured I could BS my way around reading it in full. However once I got past the first 60-70 pages, I was completely hooked despite myself. Watching Le Ly's journey through life and the way she herself grows and changes and endures made me envious. Not of the things she's been through, but of her tenacity of spirit and independent streak. I want to strive to be more like her in my daily life, able to forgive wrongs done to me but not ...more
Ariyati Lestari
Based on a true story of Le Ly Hayslip during her childhood in Ky La, near Da Nang in the central coast of Vietnam. Republican people were there (supported by the colonial also the invader) while the rest were supporter of Northern Vietnam communist, Uncle Ho party. Viet Cong(VC) had a back up from local people in her village.

Her childhood include becoming VC activist until given honorary song. Being captured by the police (goverment) but managed to get away few times seems not enough. The curse
...more
Melodi
3.5 stars. I love this kind of book. Where I learn about another persons experience, who lived in another land, had a hard life, and has overcome those obstacles placed before them. I think it is a teaching experience and builds in me a stronger spriit and a kinder person. America is such a melting pot of cultures and religion, I think it is absolutely necessary to continue to learn about the differences that American people encompass so that we can be tolerant and understanding of one another.

A
...more
Rob
in many ways, this book reminds me of Black Elk Speaks. as literature, it didn't blow me away, but as a TRUE story, it becomes profound and important. the author was born in central vietnam in 1949 and the book tells her story up to 1970 when she came to the United States, intercut with an account of a return visit she makes in 1986 to seek out her surviving family members.

in the same sense that i think all americans should read Black Elk Speaks, everyone should read this, too. no matter what y
...more
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Le Ly Hayslip is a Vietnamese-American memoirist and humanitarian. She was born in Ky La, now Xa Hao Qui, a small town in central Vietnam just south of Da Nang. She was the sixth and youngest child born to farmers. American helicopters landed in her village when she was 12 years old. At the age of 14, she endured torture in a South Vietnamese government prison for "revolutionary sympathies". She f ...more
More about Le Ly Hayslip...
Child of War, Woman of Peace The Norton Book of Women's Lives The Making of Oliver Stone's Heaven and Earth When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) True Detectives/Good Grief/When Heaven and Earth Changed Places/Where the Buck Stops (Today's Best Nonfiction, #7)

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“For you see, the face of destiny or luck or god that gives us war also gives us other kinds of pain: the loss of health and youth; the loss of loved ones or of love; the fear that we will end our days alone. Some people suffer in peace the way others suffer in war. The special gift of that suffering, I have learned, is how to be strong while we are weak, how to be brave when we are afraid, how to be wise in the midst of confusion, and how to let go of that which we can no longer hold. In this way, anger can teach us forgiveness, hate can teach us love, and war can teach us peace.” 13 likes
“The past, for everyone, is full of missed chances, surviving to understand them, if not set them straight, is one of the things that makes the next breath worth taking.” 9 likes
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