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The Life We Were Given: Operation Babylift, International Adoption, and the Children of War in Vietnam Kindle Edition

17 customer reviews

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Length: 288 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews


Deeply compelling and deftly researched, Dana Sachs's The Life We Were Given vividly documents this controversial mass evacuation while trailing the heartbreaking narratives of the children-from village life to orphanage to hastily arranged flights to the United States and into the homes of waiting American adoptive parents. The Life We Were Given is a powerful exploration of the questions that haunt everyone involved in adoption.—Meredith Hall, author of Without A Map

"The saddest story in the whole awful sweep of the war in Vietnam had nothing to do with soldiers or ideology and has never been fully told—possibly because no one could bear to. Thankfully, Dana Sachs fills that void with The Life We Were Given, one of the bravest and most wrenching books I have read about the war. All the victims and heroes of the Orphan Airlift come unforgettably to life in this beautiful book, and I will not soon forget them, or it."—Tom Bissell, author of The Father of All Things

"The Life We Were Given</i< is a work of great compassion and scope that gives voice to the tragedy and salvation of thousands of Vietnamese orphans. Dana Sachs has compiled an impressive collection of personal stories and presented them with concise historical background to give this subject the depth it so rightly deserves. An illuminating book worth reading."—Andrew X. Pham, author of Catfish and Mandala and The Eaves of Heaven

"With its clear and compelling truths about war, children, fear, and hope, The Life We Were Given becomes one of our very best and most important books about America's involvement with the people of Vietnam. And it's so much more. Exquisitely written, full of breathtaking suspense, this book will become a classic, a must-read."—Clyde Edgerton, author of Lunch at the Piccadilly and The Bible Salesman

"This gripping account of Operation Babylift allows the voices of those directly affected by the experience to speak out. . . . Unmatched in its breadth of perspective and depth of insight . . . Sachs has broken new ground in our continued understanding and insight into how powerful Operation Babylift was on our national consciousness and the many lives it impacted."—Bert Ballard, PhD, Operation Babylift adoptee (April 1975), international adoption researcher, adoptee activist

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Dana Sachs has written about Vietnam for twenty years. The author of The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam and the novel If You Lived Here, and coauthor of Two Cakes Fit for a King: Folktales from Vietnam, she teaches at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and lives in North Carolina.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2205 KB
  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 1, 2010)
  • Publication Date: April 1, 2010
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003D3MGBC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #828,149 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Steuer on April 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The Life We Were Given" is a beautifully and sensitively written account of "Operation Babylift," the harrowing evacuation of an uncertain number of Vietnamese orphans and non-orphan children who were boarded in orphanages because of wartime conditions. The title comes from a statement of a Vietnamese-American man who had been adopted via Operation Babylift; he is reflecting on his and other adoptee's need to accept and come to terms with the life he and other adoptees have lived because of their evacuation from their homeland. But, the book does not just give the varying viewpoints of some adoptees--also providing the nuanced perspectives of the birth parents, adoptive parents, orphanage and adoption agency operators and their staffs, members of the U.S. military, doctors and volunteers who helped in the days following the frantic arrival in the U.S. of flights of Vietnamese babies and children, South Vienamese locals, and a North Vietnamese communist who took over management of many South Vietnamese orphanages after the "fall of Saigon." Taken together, their reflections give broad scope to Dana Sachs's persevering effort to answer how and why Operation Babylift happened as it did, and what it means. The recollections of those in South Vietnam also give a fascinating and moving description of the frantic final weeks before the "Fall of Saigon." The almost daily descriptions of the plight, and the fears, of those in South Vietnam as they listened to the bombs and the fighting approach and as they heard the stories of the refugees who flooded Saigon while both the military and the rumors closed in.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Crain on April 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'd rank this book right up there with Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." So many brilliant moments and vignettes - I can't decide which is my favorite. The scariest one was when the medical team boarded the plane in advance of President Ford and the description of the conditions onboard. Dr. Stalcup and his medical team are heroes. Not the only heroes in this story, hardly at all, but what a job! Sachs's relationship with her interpreter Thuy was also very telling, reminding us that after all, we can be close with folks from another culture, another world, the other side. I understand the author's reluctance to reduce Vietnam to another story about the war and only about the war, since there is so much more to Vietnam, but I am grateful that she carved out this small piece of that war and wrote about it so brilliantly. Years ago, before I went to Cambodia to cover the last stages of the civil war there, I spent a lot of time reading about the region -- including Vietnam and Laos, too -- reading about the wars, the endless wars, and looking at all the photography that came out of that place - so much of it was about the innocents, the very young and the very old. I realized that the real story of war has little to do with generals or troop movements, strategy or weaponry. Sachs captures that brilliantly in this book. The real victims are innocence and the innocent. Desperate people doing amazing things to rescue a homeless and hungry child. Lieberman and Taylor, Stalcup and countless others named and unnamed in this brilliant book remind us so clearly who it is that suffers most. Such a subtle work of writing, it evokes the depth of the tragic American experience in Vietnam -- as well as the horrific experience of the Vietnamese themselves in that bewildering and savage war.Read more ›
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Miller on June 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase

During the Vietnamese War, American soldiers average tour of duty was about one year. The American soldiers fathered and left behind many Amerasian children. The Vietnamese are a fairly racist society and they were prejudiced against the Amerasian children, especially the Amerasian children of African American descent. Many of these Amerasian children ended up being abandoned by their mothers or orphaned. There were a lot of orphans in Vietnam during this time, both Amerasian and Vietnamese because of the war. There were several international organizations that came into Vietnam to take care of the orphans. These organizations arranged international adoptions for the orphans that they were caring for both in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe.

When it became apparent that the North Vietnamese were going to take over South Vietnam, many people, both South Vietnamese and international, were afraid that the conquering communists would kill the Amerasian children and punish their families. Because of this an effort was made to get as many Amerasian children out of Vietnam as possible. This effort became known as Operation Babylift. Operation Babylift only had time to evacuate around 3300 children. Most of the children were orphaned Amerasian children but there were some who did have living mothers. These mothers turned their children over to Operation Babylift because they feared that the communists would harm or kill their Amerasian children. These mothers often did not realize that they were turning their children over to this organization for foreign adoption. Some of these mothers were able to leave Vietnam and immigrate to the United States. When they arrived they found that their children had been adopted.
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