Born Phung Thi Le Ly in 1949 to Buddhist peasants living under Vietnam’s French colonial rule, Le Ly Hayslip ardently supported her nation’s struggle for independence. Years later, when Viet Cong soldiers of the North wrongly accused her of treason, she fled her village in central Vietnam to live in Danang and, later, Saigon. After giving birth to her wealthy employer’s son and witnessing the cruelty of Communist rebels against the peasants they purported to defend, she shifted her allegiance to the republican-backed American forces. She supported herself and her child through black marketeering and other illegal activity and entered into a series of unhappy love affairs with United States servicemen before marrying Ed Munro, an American contractor more than forty years her senior. In 1970, without notifying her family, she left Vietnam for the United States as Munro’s bride and the mother of his infant son.
The pattern of being caught in the middle—between the North and the South or between allies and enemies—continued in her new home in suburban San Diego, where Hayslip experienced culture shock, homesickness, and racial antagonism. Soon after Munro’s death in 1973, she married Dennis Hayslip, a mentally unstable man by whom she had her third son before he committed suicide. The resilient Hayslip supported herself in the United States as a maid, nurse’s aide, and factory worker; with money from her late husband’s insurance settlement...
(The entire section is 418 words.)