Heaven And Earth - Le Ly Hayslip



Vietnamese writer Le Ly Hayslip reflects on her life and work shedding new light on her country's experience of the war.

Much of what we know about Vietnam we know through the prism of western, primarily American, culture. Two autobiographies written by the Vietnamese-American author Le Ly Hayslip offer an important insight into the war and its aftermath from a Vietnamese perspective.

It's 25 years since the publication of her first memoir, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace, which was followed in 1993 by her second book, Child of War, Woman of Peace. In this programme, Le Ly gives us unique access into her home in Vietnam to talk about her life and the two books that tell her remarkable story of suffering, survival and her mission to heal the wounds between America and her homeland.

Le Ly was tortured in a South Vietnamese government prison for "revolutionary sympathies", raped by the VC, and fled to Saigon before fleeing to America. There she married unhappily, prospered, and returned to her village in Vietnam 13 years later. She has since set up the East Meets West foundation to reconcile Americans and Vietnamese, and the Global Village Foundation providing development assistance to rural Vietnam.

The programme includes in interview with the director Oliver Stone, who was so moved by Le Ly's story he made a film about her - 1993's Heaven and Earth. Says Stone: 'That she has been through so much and can talk honestly the way she does is the key to her book and the understanding of it and that's why I wanted to make the film - to understand someone who had suffered even more than I had. And I can learn from her.'

Producer: Eve Streeter

A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.