When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

by: Le Ly Hayslip

Le Ly Hayslip

Characters Le Ly Hayslip

Having been a Viet Cong spy, a servant, a black marketer, a teenage single mother, and an expatriate, Le Ly is, above all, a survivor. She does whatever necessary to survive through the war and its atrocities. In this way, she is an embodiment of her country: forced by war into extreme and unusual circumstances, she perseveres in any way she can. The war has left her with a mix of traditions and thoughts; she values her father’s Buddhism, as well as his emphasis on family, but she has left her ancestral home for a better life abroad. On her return to Vietnam, she quenches her homesickness for Vietnamese food but continues to dress in Western style. This combination of East and West in Le Ly is representative of how the war altered many people, displacing their values and changing their perspectives.

In addition to being representative of the generation affected by the war, Le Ly is also a messenger of peace. Throughout her memoir, Le Ly conveys the most important lessons she has learned from the war: forgiveness is the way to mend the hurt that was inflicted on all sides involved in the war, family is the most important thing in life, and all sides, the Vietnamese and the Western world, need to work together to bring life and hope back into her homeland. She wants these lessons to be a prescriptive to all of those affected by and hurt from the war. Le Ly returns to Vietnam in part to help mend what the war had destroyed in her country and in her family. Her memoirs are an extension of this healing journey, administering peace as an antidote to war and forgiveness as an antidote to hate.