When Heaven And Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip

When Heaven And Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip

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In the book When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Hayslip, Le Ly was just one of many peasants trying to survive during war time. Survival meant having to make some hard decisions; decisions that may make peasants go against their roots. However, as we see Le Ly do throughout the book, peasants do not completely abandon their family traditions. Le Ly was very close to her father and kept everything he taught her in mind while she made some difficult choices. "My father taught me to love god, my family, our traditions, and the people we could not see: our ancestors" (ix). With her father's help, she was able to honor her past, provide for her family's needs, and give her son a chance for a better future. If Le Ly was unable to adequately provide for her family, she felt she let her father and ancestors down.
Le Ly never forgot about honoring the past while trying to better conditions for her future generations. Le Ly's father had a big influence in her life. Her father had once told her "Right is the goodness you carry in your heart—love for your ancestors and your baby and your family and for everything that lives. Wrong is anything that comes between you and that love" (201). After her father died, she realized just how connected the past is with the future and was determined to please her father's spirit in everything she did. Le Ly always listened for her father's spirit calling out to her; to his little peach blossom. Because of her father, she knew that she could, and should, go to America with her son for a better life. Once in America, Le Ly knew she could not sever her roots from the home she loved, as long as she was called to help her struggling home country. When she returned to Vietnam to see her family again, she saw the need for help and knew she was called back home for a reason. Once again she heard her father, this time welcoming her home. "Bay Ly, Bay Ly—my little peach blossom—why have you been gone so long" (315)? Her family was depending on Le Ly to bridge the gap between Vietnam and America to bring help to the peasants.

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"In the name of my father and all the other victims of war, I founded an agency in 1987 to help my brothers and sisters in Vietnam while helping my brothers and sisters in the United States come back from their wartime experiences" (367). The means of survival were not looked down on so much as a disgrace, but as young woman trying to do the best she can to keep her and her family alive.
Le Ly thought about the welfare of her family when she was going from job to job. At one point, Le Ly had to support two households on a black-market salary. "With the expense of two households and less money from my sales, I could see the day would come when we would all be back out on the street. …I determined I would do anything before I let that happen again" (256). This forced Le Ly to take drastic measures she vowed she never would take again. When Big Mike offered four hundred dollars to Le Ly to have sex with two GI's, she at first refused. However, with the money she would be able to take care of her family for a year. "Four hundred dollars would support my mother, me and Hung for over a year…" (258). Selling one's body was not looked highly upon. Le Ly, remembering what her father taught her, decided she must do this for the family. "He taught me that to sacrifice one's self for freedom… was a very high honor" (ix). She was able to give in to Big Mike knowing that this money was going to help her and her family's financial situation. This money would also eventually help Le Ly and her son escape to America.
To be able to provide a better future for her son, Le Ly felt she and her son were no longer able to stay in Vietnam and needed to leave for America. "If baby Hung and I and my father's spirit were to survive the death of Vietnam, we would have to turn our eyes elsewhere—to the West…" (239). Le Ly had married an American, who many see as the enemy, and most of her family members did not approve of this. Marrying an American was only a part of the problem. The difference in ages, with Ed being much older, and marrying so soon after the death of her father went against traditions. "You betray your ancestors" (347)! Even knowing all of this, moving to America is what needed to be done to protect her family and their futures. When Le Ly's father was alive, he had told her to take care of her son, whatever that entailed. "Raise him the best way you can. That is the battle you were born to fight" (201). Now, honoring her dead father, she remembered his words. The future was not bright for her in Vietnam. And with a growing boy to think of, she had to make the hard decision to leave everything and everybody she knows behind. With Ed as her husband, she knew she could give her son a better future where endless opportunities await him and he will not know the hardships of war. "…he would see to it that I would never have to work again; that my little boy, Jimmy, would be raised in a nice neighborhood and go to an American school; and that neither of us would have to face the dangers and travails of war again. …the answer to my prayers…" (343). Out of necessity, Le Ly married the American. Le Ly was determined to keep close to the ghosts of her past while providing a future in America for the upcoming generations of her family.
During the war, survival became a way of life for the peasants. This was especially true for Le Ly and her family. Throughout her life, Le Ly kept close to her heart the teachings of her father. Because of her father, she was able to continue to honor her past while trying to better the conditions for future generations, provide for her family, and give her son a chance at a better life in the future. Le Ly did not forget or lose respect for her roots. If anything, she respected her roots more and came closer to her father and her ancestors.
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