Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back9780061962790_p0_v2_s260x420Inside Out & Back Again

Thanhha Lai, Author

Harper Collins Children, Fiction, 2011

Suitable for Ages:  8-12

Themes:  Vietnamese Americans, Immigration, Refugees, Alabama, Resilience

Synopsis from Book Jacket:  For all the ten years of her life, Ha has only know Saigon: The thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by…and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.   But now the Vietnam War has reached her home.  Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope.  In America, Ha discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape…and the strength of her very own family.  This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

Why I like this book:  Thanhha Lai has written the story of Ha, in short free verse narrative, which is exquisitely executed. Her images are both rich and humorous.  It was the winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This is a remarkable  story based on  Thanhha Lai’s own vivid childhood memories of fleeing Saigon and sailing to a strange new country. She vividly captures Ha’s rich and confusing emotional life. In Vietnam she’s an outstanding student. In America Ha is put into a lower grade because she can’t speak English. She feels dumb. There are so many rules in English that make absolutely no sense to Ha. She says “Whoever invented English,/ should be bitten/ by a snake.”  Ha is humiliated after the class claps for her when she recites the ABC’s and counts to twenty.  “I’m furious,/ unable to explain,/ I already learned/fractions/and how to purify river water./So this is/ what dumb feels like./ I hate, hate, hate it.”  This is a story about the resilience of the feisty spirit of a child told with such simplicity.

Resource:  You may be interested in reading an interview with Thanhha Lai when she won the 2011 National Book Award.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

38 thoughts on “Inside Out and Back Again

    • I was particularly moved by this story. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be smart and at the top of your class, and then feel like you are dumb at the bottom of the class. Ha’s voice is strong and very authentic.

  1. Thank you for bringing my attention to this book again. I remember noticing it before. I’m not going to forget to get my hands (and eyes and heart) on it again. It strikes me that there are multitudes of children and former children who had variations on Ha’s experience–it is an important story for us all to understand better. Free verse sounds like an effective way to tell this story, and I look forward to reading it.

  2. Wow! What an incredible story! I know what it’s like to be uprooted and put down in a strange, foreign place. This looks like an excellent book. I’ll have to hunt for this one. Thanks!

  3. “Whoever invented English,/ should be bitten/ by a snake.” I love this line. Definitely shows how Ha feels about her struggles! On my short list! Thanks Patricia.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: “Inside Out and Back Again” | The Cheap Reader

  5. Pingback: Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai | Children's Books Heal

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