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1. The special gift of 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.

In the Prologue, Le Ly outlines her intention of writing a memoir about growing up in Vietnam during the war. Through her experience in Vietnam, she sees that the war and its atrocities wound people physically and emotionally. The war leaves many people in Vietnam and the United States angry, confused, and at a loss for meaning. Her experience and world view help her create meaning from the awful atrocities she endured. This outlook enables Le Ly to find a positive outcome from the negative experiences of war. Her pregnancy, although difficult because she is young and alone, makes her realize that family is more important than fighting. She loses many things during the war—her home, her beloved brother, the father of her child, and her childhood— but she learns to live for the future and for her children. In doing so, she is able to avoid growing burdened by the past. She is able to find a new life in the homeland of the aggressors who attack her village, and find a friendship with her brother, who works for the government that tried to kill her.

Not all of the characters are able to extract such meaning from the war. Upon returning to Vietnam, Le Ly is amazed to see the transformation of her countrymen from generous to petty, and even more shocked to see such behavior in her own family. Leading by her own example of forgiveness, Le Ly is able to influence her mother to forgive Ba. This is a small start to the larger project of mending the hurt inflicted by the war. Her perspective on war is a prescription for others who suffer from the war; it is a recipe for peace and healing.