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When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (movie tie-in)

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    When Heaven and Earth changed places is the gripping narrative of a Vietnamese woman's journey from war to peace. Le Ly Hayslip, the author and protagonist in this book grew up a young peasant girl in Ky Lai, central Vietnam.

    This story follows Le Ly Hayslip as she experiences the War in Vietnam as a young peasant girl caught up in the middle, figuratively and literally ( as she lives along the fault line that divides the north and south provinces) of two opposing factions and who is forced to serve both VC and South Vietnamese nationalist causes. Through her flight to safety in America, and her subsequent return to her homeland after the chaos of war has torn through her world, Hayslip has a firsthand account of how the conflict in Vietnam unfolded with her right in the middle of it, an innocent young woman whose life is delineated and forever changed. From her birth as the youngest daughter in a poor hamlet being fed buffalo milk to survive, Hayslip's ordeals and understanding of the effects of a horrible war grow progressively worse as she is drawn into the maelstrom of destructiveness that tears her life apart.
    Le Lay Hayslip, a young peasant girl is a key witness of circumstance. She deserves nothing that she is subjected to, and her story is as much a story of survival as it is an account of a bloody and savage conflict that tore the countryside and her people apart. Born into Ky Lai, a small village right in between the opposing South and North Vietnamese, Hayslip is used to a life of struggle. She is born the youngest daughter to a poor farming family where her own mother has to feed her buffalo milk to give her enough sustenance to survive. She is also at a disadvantage because in her culture, as is custom, sons are more prized than daughters and the only thing she can hope for is to marry someone whom her family approves of, more of a business deal than anything to do with love or choice. But even this one prospect is torn away from Le Ly Hayslip because of the opposing North and south conflicts. A pure and innocent example of the collateral damage of war, Le Ly Hayslip's province is bombed by American planes, killing some of relatives and neighbors of the community. Shortly after, the Vietcong come into her village to suppress any republican sentiments and to promote themselves as well as recruit soldiers to their cause. Hayslip's village's stance becomes pro-VC, mostly because they have infiltrated and established their dominance over the area. At a young age, she is exposed to the hardships of life in a rural community, subject to whichever stronger group chooses to suppress them. As a child, Hayslip is witness to the horrible degradation, torture and rape of a helpless peasant woman, at the hands of a group of the French Foreign Legion soldiers and so such sentiments run deep within her. When the VC come to "protect their village" Hayslip described them as, "The Vietminh went out of their way, at first, to behave like villagers and not like soldiers. They did not rob and pillage like the mercenary Moroccans [French Foreign Legionnaires]" (Hayslip 19). The poor girl is not given a choice, and at the age of 13 is forced to be a runner/lookout for the Vietcong.
    Le Ly Hayslip's account of what she experienced and saw is chronologically back and forth in her book. She often reminisces to her time spent in America with her sons from her first marriage after she fled Vietnam as she had no safe haven with either side.

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