4. Vietnam already had too many people who were ready to die for their beliefs. What it needed was men and women - brothers and sisters - who refused to accept either death or death-dealing as a solution to their problems. If you keep compassion in your heart, I discovered, I discovered, you never long for death yourself. From my father’s death, I had finally learned how to live.
This passage appears in Chapter 7. Trong tells Le Ly legends of famous Vietnamese women warriors when she is a young girl. As a child, Le Ly wants to be a warrior, to fight like men, giving up their lives for a cause. However, her father tells her that her role is far greater: to have children and care for them as a mother, teaching them about their ancestors, the land, and peace. Despite her father’s philosophy, Le Ly feels that her role is to fight alongside the Viet Cong. After her expulsion from her village and from the Viet Cong, she is confused about her purpose. The entire country, including her family and friends, is caught up in war and she believed that it is her duty to fight.
Yet her father’s death brings her an inner peace and understanding about her role in life; it marks a turning point for Le Ly. She starts appreciating what she has and works hard to get out of Vietnam. Her outlook shifts from feeling hopeless to feeling like a warrior who would overcome the hardships, protect her children, and survive. Fighting, politics, and honor were no longer important. Her duty is to her son, to her family, and to preserving them for the future. Her anger toward the Viet Cong and the village that expelled her, toward her rapists, toward the man she loved who abandoned her, and toward the drunken GIs, all dissipate. Her father’s philosophy helps her see that these people were not the enemy: their fear and hatred brought on by war was the enemy. When she comes understand her father’s view of humanity, she is able to forgive all sides for their atrocities during the war. This philosophy—war, not people, is the enemy—is the backbone for her mission to heal the wounds caused by the war to all involved. Her memoir is her forgiveness in action, a return to the war-torn country in an attempt to start to mend some of the damage done.