When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace
It is said that on the day when some one woman, any woman, finally succeeds in telling the truth about her life, the world will be split in two. Millions of us are waiting for that day, watching for it, nurturing its possibility. It should be required reading in military colleges and in high schools and universities looking for broader, more personal interpretations of geo-politics. It may speak most piercingly to Asians and Amer-Asians, especially Amer-Asian children, but it should be heard by any man--and especially any woman--who cares about life on our planet. These are strong words about a book that has some troubling flaws. But its overarching theme--that the innocent victims are not nameless people but individual human beings--is an essential message in a world that measures history by its wars and body counts.
New York: Doubleday. WE Americans have been too intent on nursing our own wounds from the Vietnam War to take much notice of those suffered by the Vietnamese. It has been the American experience that has dominated the novels, the films, the nonfiction books through which we have re-examined our misadventure. At best, the Vietnamese have been cardboard characters in these works, props without emotion, mere foils for the American pain, the American grief, the American guilt. We have not cared to hear Vietnamese voices or look at ourselves through Vietnamese eyes. Le Ly Hayslip now beseeches us to shift our focus and listen to her story of growing up in the shadow of war. She tells us a tale of her childhood as an innocent peasant girl in a village near Da Nang, of her nightmarish memories of French and Moroccan soldiers, of her early loyalties to the Vietcong who then raped her and sentenced her to death, of her torture by South Vietnamese interrogators, of her infatuation with Americans who beat her and loved her, of the sundering of her family by the crosswinds of war.
The story began during Hayslip's childhood in a small village in central Vietnam , named Ky La. Her village was along the fault line between the north and south of Vietnam, with shifting allegiances in the village leading to constant tension. She and her friends worked as lookout for the northern Vietcong. The South Vietnamese learned of her work, arrested and tortured her. After Hayslip was released from prison, however, the Vietcong no longer trusted her and sentenced her to death. At the age of fourteen, two soldiers threatened to kill her in the forest.
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