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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  2,750 ratings  ·  267 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 landed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietn
Paperback, 400 pages
Published November 1st 1993 by Plume (first published April 29th 1989)
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4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,750 ratings  ·  267 reviews

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Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teens-and-adults
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
Feb 17, 2017 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about this book. It literally took me years to read---because it didn't grab my attention and beg to be read every day. After visiting Vietnam, I wanted to understand the war from a local's perspective, and I think this book achieves this exactly. The author grows up in a central village that is torn between the Viet Cong and Republican (the side the US was on) forces--and they have to feign allegiance to both of them at different times, in order to survive. I believe it ga ...more
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This book is the closest I will ever get to understanding my father's childhood as a peasant in South Vietnam during the war that Americans know as the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese know as the American War.

I heard vaguer, child-censored versions of my dad's stories of the pressures of two sides (Viet Cong & Republican) in his village, and the euphemism of being taken away for "personal discussion" by the Viet Cong, but reading this memoir of a woman with different-yet-similar experiences d
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is a nonfiction autobiography of one woman's life in Vietnam during the war. This contains much tragedy as this woman returns to her home country after having lived in the U.S. for a while. She toggles back and forth from her reunion with her family that stayed in Vietnam and the memories she had while growing up in a war torn country. There are scenes that were hard to get through. There was so much rape in this. It was so sad that this was someone's reality.

This book posed some seri
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Great intimate look at why some joined the North in the war and what some had to endure just to survive. Also, was a great way to start a dialogue with my parents about their own experiences and what they thought about the narrative in this book.
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 w ...more
Teresa Goethe
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book greatly helped me to understand the history and Vietnamese perspective of the conflict that ravaged Vietnam from the 1950s into the 70s. The resilience of Le Ly Hayslip and her messages of the importance of compassion and forgiveness are very inspiring.
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you read about the Vietnam war on the web, you will know all the facts about it. You can also have a political perspective - that the communists defeated America or that America stood by the people. But you will never know what war really means - how it impacts the country, how it destroys families, and how it flares up greed, selfishness and inhumanity in the ordinary people. As the author's father tells her in the book, "Do not hate the people, hate the war for making them like that".

Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
the most excruciating tale I have ever read about war. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is Le Ly Hayslip's experience growing up in Vietnam's countryside just before the Second Indochina War (Vietnam War) began. as if growing up during war characterized by guerrilla warfare wasn't enough, Le Ly's village rests on the border between South and North Vietnam. thus, Le Ly's village as well her little mind are in a constant tug-o-war between Republican and Viet Cong soldiers. Le Ly was beaten mul ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Highly recommended to read and learn the perspective of a peasant girl growing up during the Vietnam War. She implies wrongdoings on all political sides of the war, although there was plenty more room for harsher and detailed criticism. Hayslip stays on the safe side, taking a more neutral political stance and focuses her opinions on general anti-war sentiments, possibly to appear generally favorable by both Americans and Vietnamese—there are political factors in the publishing world itself, tak ...more
Michael Andersen-Andrade
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Kim Tran
An incredibly inspirational and heartbreaking story how a Vietnamese war victim survived and grew peace in her soul.

This memoir, for a long time, was in my to-read list as a sheer willing to gain a deeper insight into the war my beloved ones had gone through while we young generation had no concept about. Because my language was limited to fully get the writer's flowery words, it took much longer than expected to keep my promise, which is, to finish the book before 30 April, the Reunification Da
Tammy Stathelson
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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.
Megan Sharma
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Vietnamese girl grows up through all of the wars that wash over Vietnam. She becomes a "boat person" to the US, then returns to Vietnam as an adult. Fascinating, beautifully written and a real lesson in what happened in Vietnam.
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite books. I bought a badly printed version off a beggar child in a Vietnamese bar because I felt sorry for him. I didn't expect to devour it! I have lots of books in storage but this one always comes with me when I move.
In reference to a number of reviews of this book I noticed, I encourage everyone to read more than one book about the Vietnam War. If you only have time to read one book about the subject, please don't read this one.
Final Frontier Books
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Read this review and others on my blog, Final Frontier Books!

So, why should you read this book?
Experiences of the Vietnam War are misunderstood, I think. Certainly, I had never read about the experience of a Vietnamese peasant during the war up until this point, and I'm glad I did because not only has it given me insight into a difficult conflict, but also on subjects like forgiveness and kindness.

My opinion
Le Ly Hayslip was a teenage Vietnamese peasant girl at the time of the Vietnam War, and s
Timothy Ratliffe
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
We all know that war is horrible, but it takes a book like this to make us realize just how horrible it is. This is war as experienced by a little girl, and later as a young woman, starting in an obscure farming village outside of Danang. The conflict seesaws through the village day-to-day from one side and then the other starting with the French--the village called them Moroccans, through the Republicans--government soldiers out of Saigon, and through the ubiquitous Viet-Cong to the Americans. ...more
Jim Drewery
Dec 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Megan Brizzell
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What an unforgettable, honest, emotionally resonant memoir of growing up in wartime Vietnam. Wow.
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
David P
Nov 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Nhi Le (The Literary Bystander)
Nov 28, 2011 marked it as will-come-back-to-someday
Shelves: owned-books
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
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
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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
“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.” 19 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.” 13 likes
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