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

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A memoir of the Vietnam war from a woman's point of view - seen through the eyes of a child who survived the horror.

Le Ly Hayslip, the inspiration for the musical "Miss Saigon", tells the story of a young peasant girl's struggle to survive. Pressed into service at the age of 12 by the Vietcong, Le Ly Hayslip was captured and tortured by government forces. She found sanctuary at last with an American soldier and after affairs with several GIs, she fled to America to escape the horrors of the war.

But as the traumas of the war years lingered on in painful nightmares, Le Ly Hayslip returned to her homeland in 1986. Horrified and shocked to discover the country and the people still profoundly scarred by the war, she took the biggest decision of her life - selling her property to start a foundation dedicated to building health clinics jointly staffed by Americans and Vietnamese.

368 pages, Paperback

First published April 29, 1989

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About the author

Le Ly Hayslip

13 books32 followers
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 fled to Saigon, where she and her mother worked as housekeepers for a wealthy Vietnamese family. She worked for a short period of time as a nurse assistant in a Da Nang hospital.

Her first book, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace (Doubleday, 1989), tells the story of her somewhat peaceful early childhood and war-torn adolescence. Her second memoir, Child of War, Woman of Peace (Doubleday, 1993), is set in the United States during the final years of the Vietnam War.

Instead of focusing on the many tragedies that pervaded so much of her existence, Le Ly turned her own experiences into a way to help others rebuild their lives as well. Having survived the torture and victimization of war, herself, she turned her personal pain into a public passion to make a difference both in Vietnam and in the United States, as a humanitarian, a memoirist, and a powerful peacemaker. She is the founder of the East Meets West Foundation, a charitable group dedicated to improving the health and welfare of the Vietnamese, as well as creating self-sufficiency of the people to run the programs started in Vietnam by East Meets West.

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5 stars
1,366 (40%)
4 stars
1,319 (38%)
3 stars
575 (16%)
2 stars
105 (3%)
1 star
32 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 338 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,426 reviews8,331 followers
August 3, 2020
A powerful memoir about a Vietnamese American woman who lived through the Vietnam War as a young Vietnamese girl in the 1960s. I loved Le Ly Hayslip’s honest, visceral descriptions of what it felt like living in Vietnam as well as the horrible impacts of war. She shares her raw, unfiltered perspective on watching family, friends, and community members get incarcerated and/or killed, living in a state of constant distrust and uncertainty about her safety and the safety of those she cares about, and experiencing torture and multiple instances of sexual assault in her early adolescence. Amidst this personal account of the Vietnam War she shares some conversations and reflections about the motivations of different forces within the war (e.g., the Viet Cong compared to the Republican Army in the south) as well as an overarching desire for peace.

I feel so grateful that Le Ly Hayslip wrote this memoir and shared her experience living through the Vietnam War. As a Vietnamese American whose parents immigrated to the United States, reading this memoir helps me feel closer to my heritage and my parents’ experience. I wish that accounts like these were incorporated more often into the education system in the United States, as opposed to predominantly reading books by white men and/or from white men’s perspectives. Hayslip writes with a lot of candor about what she went through, and I feel like her narrative is invaluable as a result. Some themes that stood out to me include the sheer atrocity of war and how it damaged so many people’s lives in Vietnam, as well as the colonization – especially the sexual colonization – enacted by soldiers from the United States and how proximity to these mostly white soldiers carried power, which sucks and made me despise white supremacy once again.

Totally recommend to those interested in learning about the Vietnam War from a woman who actually lived through it. At times I felt like the narrative was a bit slow during the beginning, especially the first part of her journey back to Vietnam as an adult. I also took some issue with some victim-blaming language against sex workers later on in the memoir, how Hayslip expressed a sentiment that sex workers who “chose” sex work are to blame for not making better choices, which felt like such an awful thing to express given the environmental conditions (e.g., white supremacy, imperialism) that may have necessitated sex work. Despite these small constructive critiques I still enjoyed this book a lot and possess renewed anti-war and anti-imperialism sentiment after reading it.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
35 reviews6 followers
May 27, 2013
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.
Profile Image for Ming Wei.
Author 13 books265 followers
July 26, 2019
I read this book many years ago, and I still remember how powerful, emotional, and in some parts upseting the book was. Set in the 1960s Vietnam, life was a living hell for many of the population and this books clever story telling drags the reader into the nightmare. What you expect from a story line engulfed in a war torn country, were simple, innocent average people do what ever they can to survive. I have to place this book in my favourites list. Would like to read it again in the future.
Profile Image for Amy.
141 reviews5 followers
October 18, 2015
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 during said war without my dad to discuss it with, and as an adult with greater understanding, hit me more powerfully more than I could have imagined.

The tone occasionally strikes as a bit preachy, especially in the final third of the book, but it doesn't make the memoir of Le Ly's wartime experience, or her return and subsequent efforts to repair the wounds of that war—whether with her nuclear family or her countrymen—any less compelling. We're further along the path of reconciliation with our war wounds than we were when Le Ly originally wrote this book, but the themes of this work can and should be applied to anywhere or anyone who has been ravaged by war's often-debilitating experiences.

My father would have appreciated this book and its mission. I would encourage anyone to read it, though I'm not sure everyone would get as much out of it as I personally did because of my own Vietnamese heritage.
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,918 reviews350 followers
July 24, 2010
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 has heard of. Yet, the village's ordeal, first from the French, followed by the nocturnal terror of the Viet Cong, and finally the rain of American explosives totally obliterating its existence, was shared by much of the country. Pitted against the horror of modern warfare the family and village life disintegrated. First suspected of being a member of the Viet Cong, she was imprisoned and tortured by the South Vietnamese. Upon release the Viet Cong assumed she had become a collaborator and added her name to the death list. As she ran away from the village her allegiance to traditional values faded, she bore an illegitimate child, took American lovers, and under duress became a black marketeer. She worshiped at the "shrine of the street-smart and the shrewd, not at the altar of my ancestors." Despite it all, she despairs not for the future, but has tried to break through the cycle of vengeance and. now works for the East Meets West Foundation, an organization which hopes to reconcile the differences between the two countries.

Profile Image for Ian.
382 reviews60 followers
May 10, 2020

Essential for anyone wishing to understand the thinking of those caught up in the late war in Vietnam. A window into the culture and belief system of the ordinary people, through the story of one extraordinary woman.
2,269 reviews5 followers
January 3, 2010
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 vitamins, chewing gum, and decent coffee are an every day part of life, this book will make you feel VERY grateful. It is really a book everyone should read....
Profile Image for Alisa.
79 reviews1 follower
February 17, 2017
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 gave a balanced perspective of the differences between the two, each one's strengths and weaknesses, and how unfortunate it was for many of the Vietnamese people to be caught between the two forces. Add in the American soldiers, and the story gets even more tumultuous and harder to stomach. Theft, black markets, rape, sex with a price tag--all part and parcel of being a young woman during the Vietnamese War. In the end, the 20 year old woman ends up marrying an American older than her father, in exchange for coming to the US and having her young family provided for. The story is told from two different time periods--one during the war, and the other when she returns in the late 80's and fears Viet Cong retaliation for a refugee's return to a country that is still in the depths of communism. I preferred the storyline set during the war, and found the latter story to be long-winded and less interesting (until the VERY end, when she is reunited with her family). Overall, I did not like the writing style. It was overly-descriptive and flowing with insignificant details that made it take forever and a day to get through. I have now picked up her second book that talks about her arrival to the US, and already I can tell I will like the writing style better (her co-Author is different). I think there is value to this book, but I give it 3 stars due to how slow of a read it was, and my distaste for the writing style.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,879 reviews7 followers
September 22, 2017
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 serious questions. It had my mind reeling. War changes people. It molds them and forces them down paths that wouldn't have been on their radar otherwise. What were they capable of doing to survive?
Profile Image for Kathy.
828 reviews14 followers
August 3, 2013
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 when we visit Vietnam this November??
Profile Image for Vanessa.
1 review
July 28, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Georgiana 1792.
1,805 reviews106 followers
June 8, 2020
È il memoir di Bay Ly, la sesta figlia di una famiglia di contadini vietnamiti abitanti nel villaggio di Ky La, e il suo tentativo di sopravvivere alla guerra, alle violenze da parte di entrambe le fazioni, ai sospetti e a una vita durissima per una bella ragazza vietnamita in un paese occupato in cui tutti sembrano volersi approfittare di lei. Bay Ly non è una stupida, ma gli uomini non sono certo teneri con lei. Tuttavia, Bay Ly nel 1970 riesce a fuggire via dal Vietnam e approda a San Diego in California con i suoi due figli.
Sedici anni dopo, fa ritorno in Vietnam per rivedere la sua famiglia - sua madre, in particolare - e ripercorre la sua vita difficilissima, da cui è riuscita a sopravvivere per un caso fortunato, al contrario di tanti altri che non ce l'hanno fatta.
Voi che avete letto questo libro non avete vissuto un’esistenza come la mia. Per grazia del destino o del cielo, non sapete com’è difficile sopravvivere, anche se ora potete averne un’idea. Non piangete per me: io ce l’ho fatta, e ora sto bene. Ma in questo momento milioni di altri infelici, in varie parti del mondo, vecchi e giovani, uomini e donne, al pari di quanto è accaduto a me, vivono per sopravvivere. Nemmeno loro hanno chiesto le guerre che li hanno fagocitati. Chiedono soltanto la pace, la libertà di amare e di vivere pienamente la loro esistenza, nient’altro.
Profile Image for Kay.
278 reviews21 followers
March 24, 2009
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 grips at you unforgettably. Forget the film, even though the key events are portrayed, the book is far tougher with the Hollywood romanticism stripped way.

If you want an understanding of how war affected the people of Vietnam, and how much of a piece of heaven it destroyed you need to read this book. I finished reading this on the train and it was hard not to cry my eyes out, not just for the events and family of LeLy Hayslip, but for all the people she knew and met and the beautiful way of life that is so sadly lost now.
Profile Image for Kim Tran.
5 reviews18 followers
November 4, 2018
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 Day to most Vietnamese I know, the Black April to some others, and simply no-working day to us millennials. However, following her long journey to peace made me realize the freedom we are really in and how hatred can turn forgiveness or even love.
Profile Image for Tammy Stathelson.
21 reviews2 followers
April 17, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Jimmy.
Author 6 books203 followers
August 7, 2016
It is always the regular people trying to make a living and feed their families and live their own lives who suffer the most in war. They couldn't care less about socialism or capitalism or communism or any other form of government. They just want a good government that supports them and helps them to live their lives in peace.
Profile Image for Janet.
324 reviews27 followers
November 18, 2017
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.
83 reviews
September 13, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Andrew.
1,975 reviews689 followers
July 8, 2021
Was it Viet Thanh Nguyen who hipped me to this? I'm remembering someone talking about how this is one of the few Vietnam War stories in English told by someone who wasn't part of the pre-1975 elite, but an ordinary peasant who did her best in a rough fucking time, and that as clunky as it was, it had the virtue of being extraordinarily honest.

That's correct. Completely. I've spent enough time in the backwaters of Southeast Asia to -- if not "know" what peasants in this part of the world to think -- at least have a basic grasp on the common worldviews of agricultural societies 'round these parts, and the characters have a certain familiarity. Yes, it is clunky. Yes, the "USA number one!" parts are cringe as fuck (especially when you consider Hayslip's horror at the Vietnamese fight against the Khmer Rouge, something in which history has pretty absolutely vindicated Vietnam). But it's... so goddamn honest. Not as the voice of a writer, but as the voice of a witness.
Profile Image for Audrey.
13 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2019
“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 forgiveness, hate can teach us love, and war can teach us peace.”
109 reviews11 followers
May 28, 2017
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".

This book is a real story of a Vietnamese woman who saw how war destroyed her beautiful village, how it killed innocent people, how it corrupted traditions and society and how it brought immense personal misery to her and her family. Though she was a communist sympathizer in the beginning, she slowly sees the "true picture" of war and soon realizes that there is good and bad on both sides. After all the brutal civilian killings by the forces supported by the US, we see that the communists also were quite brutal. In fact, the author gets raped by two communist "brothers" and Americans save her once from rape. Thus we begin to see the reality of war through this book and come out of our judgmental notions on Vietnam war. Because most wars have not one but two enemies, one on each side! This book is neither pro-America nor pro-Communist, it is pro-people and pro-peace!

The author is lucky enough to escape to America and the story starts when she returns back to Vietnam after the war to visit her family. The story then proceeds by interleaving the post-war and pre-war events. The writing is honest and filled with wisdom and insights on life. The plot builds up slowly, for the reality is rarely interesting. But towards the middle, I am hooked to the unfolding events and got emotional at the end of the book. There are many sad tales of death and misery in the book, so much that even the most brutal incidents seemed normal to me after a while! Guess that is what war does, it robs joy and even makes tears lose their vitality. But the book's story is one of hope, not of despair. The author's father tells her "to choose life amidst all the hard-ships" and that spirit drives the author and the book.

I recommend this book highly. It broadens our understanding and makes us more human. It is lucky that I found this book in the "free books" basket of the library. It is signed by the author and I was glad to know that she is a resident of San Diego, where I live too. May be one day I will get to meet her. What a remarkable lady!
Profile Image for Julie.
307 reviews6 followers
July 31, 2017
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 multiple times by Republican and Viet Cong soldiers, captured and interrogated multiple times by Republican soldiers, was raped multiple times, faced numerous instances of sexual harassment, was worshiped and then later banished by the Viet Cong, lost her father to suicide, saw people dismembered and killed, lost her older brother to a land mine, faced starvation, disease and extreme poverty and had her own child all before she was 20 years old. the list of inhumane things Le Ly experiences before she leaves Vietnam in the later 1970s goes on, unfortunately. perhaps the central message of Le Ly's memoir is that war is so ugly, it slowly numbs those stuck inside the war making them unflinching in the face of war itself. Le Ly becomes immune to what would normally be horrendous things - little boys being thrown down a well along with a live grenade, for example - and uses her energy to survive, as her father instructs. Le Ly is lead by these instructions from the Vietnamese countryside to Saigon where she takes various servant, club hostess, and merchant jobs. despite being either beaten or abandoned by various American soldiers, Le Ly eventually finds her way out of Vietnam though not without pleasing the corrupt systems that interweave themselves throughout Saigon.

there were several things I liked about this book, in particular. first, the book is not anti-American. rather, the book is written for ALL people who suffered from the Second Indochina War. second, Le Ly's tale recounts the Buddhist traditions that constitute village life in Vietnam. Le Ly offers clear descriptions of various Buddhist wedding and funeral practices as well as other Buddhist superstitions that are quite different from the western worldview. finally, the book switches between Le Ly recounting her life growing up in war-infested Vietnam and Le Ly returning to Vietnam for a visit in the early 1980s. the book ends with Le Ly founding the East Meets West Foundation, an organization that donates to rural towns in Southeast Asia in hopes of providing basic healthcare needs and so on.
Profile Image for Michael Andersen-Andrade.
116 reviews3 followers
February 22, 2014
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 rationalizations for being there were based on lies. Le Ly Hayslip's story of courage, determination and forgiveness is a powerful contribution to the healing process for everyone associated with that tragic war.
Profile Image for Crazytourists_books.
455 reviews43 followers
November 6, 2022
I always find it very hard to write (something like) a review about memoirs and autobiographies. It's someone's life, experiences and emotions and who am I to say anything about them. 
I have the same feeling again; this has been one of the most brutal books I have ever read and at the same time it made me cringe a lot. It seems to be too lenient towards the USA and the undeniable (humanitarian) crimes they committed in Vietnam. I am not sure how much of this leniency is Hayslip's point of view and just how much her (american) co-author's (Wurts). 
The writing style wasn't my favorite, and the print I read was awful but it is definitely a powerful book, about the life of a strong woman in/from a devastated by war country.
Profile Image for Carmen.
1,986 reviews
November 25, 2021
Everything we knew commanded us to fight. Our ancestors called us to war. Our myths and legends called us to war. Our parents' teachings called us to war. Uncle Ho's cadre called us to war. Even President Diem had called us to fight for the very thing we now believed he was betraying -an independent Vietnam. Should an obedient child be less than an ox and refused to do her duty?
And so the war began and became an insatiable dragon that roared around Ky La. By the time I turned thirteen, that dragon has swallowed me up.
Profile Image for Megan Sharma.
Author 3 books4 followers
July 22, 2007
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.
9 reviews1 follower
September 28, 2016
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.
38 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Susan Sherwin.
657 reviews
November 9, 2020
This historical memoir is often graphic, a disturbing read in light of the author's experiences during the Vietnam/American War, but I'm sure it is accurate. When Le Ly was just twelve years old Americans landed in her small central-Vietnam village, and both the government and the Viet Cong fought there. The war raged, fear and mistrust reigned among the village, and people tried to survive. They were told that they were fighting to preserve their ancient rights and independence as a sovereign nation. As a child, Le Ly was recruited as a spy and saboteur. By juggling back and forth from her childhood in the 60s to the time she returns from the U.S. to reunite with her family in Vietnam, the author shares her horrid war stories. These are stories that include starvation, rape, torture, imprisonment, and how her family and neighbors endured the brutal war years to survive.

In the prologue and her dedication to peace Phung Le Ly Hayslip states: "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 forgiveness, hate can teach us love, and war can teach us peace."

Having visited Vietnam in 2019, reading this memoir reminded me of the sights I saw and what I learned about the Vietnam War, especially the tunnels and traps the Viet Cong used, the effects of Agent Orange and chemical warfare on suffering civilian victims, the problems Vietnam had to face after liberation such as defoliated forests and croplands, and detecting and defusing old mines and bombs on the ground. In spite of those gruesome details the author shares, though, what stands out most is Le Ly's belief in the importance of family, her culture, and ancestors.
December 12, 2018
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 so she speaks from a perspective that I, as a privileged Westerner, have never come even close to experiencing. Despite all the horrors Le Ly lived through, which at times left me devastated, I would highly recommend this book to anyone for the learning experience it provides.

One of the things that struck me most about Le Ly's experience-- told in a voice that felt wholly genuine-- was how contradictory it seemed: her family, living in a place torn by the North and South, initially supported the Viet Cong, but as the conflict continued they accrued Republican family members, became intimate with American soldiers, and eventually didn't seem to have a side. This was through the realisation that war was war, no matter who was fighting it. The attitude of tolerance and forgiveness in which Le Ly emerged from the conflict, and which she nursed throughout all her years in America (eventually establishing the East Meets West Foundation), is truly admirable and inspiring, especially considering its violent beginnings.

I found her reunion with her family, and their kindness and generosity, incredibly touching and found it beautiful how, despite all their years apart and the conflicting ideologies present within their respective countries, their family bonds remained strong. Nobody deserved to live through that conflict (nobody deserves to live through any conflict), but I'm glad that at least there are those willing to learn from their experiences in such terrible times and share their knowledge with others so that, possibly, we could learn from them.
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