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Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again (original 2011; edition 2011)

by Thanhha Lai

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9921028,636 (4.25)53
Title:Inside Out and Back Again
Authors:Thanhha Lai
Info:HarperCollins (2011), Hardcover, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Newberry Award, young girl, Vietnam, bully

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Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (2011)


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I loved this book. It chronicles the life of a young Vietnamese girl as she is forced to flee her home in Saigon and then finds refuge in a strange place - Alabama. The difficulty of having to leave the only home she knows to begin a new life with her family is beautifully portrayed in verse. Her personality comes through in her poems- "I can't make my brothers go live elsewhere/ but I can/ hide their sandals." You can see her older brother's frustration as he tries to be patient as the translator of the family, the sadness the family feels for having to flee, the sadness of not having a father (missing in action for years) -- the loss Ha feels that she is trying to cope with. She finds a friend in her tutor, Miss Washington, whose son died fighting in the Vietnam War. It was heartbreaking how Ha goes from feeling smart in her own country to feeling dumb in America. I am glad the book ended on a hopeful note. ( )
  SuPendleton | Jun 30, 2014 |
Written in poetry, this is the story of Ha', who lives in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Ha' and her family flee and travel to the US and adjust to live in a different country and culture.
  laurlou | Jun 9, 2014 |
This book follows a year in the life of a young girl from Vietnam named Ha. Throughout the year her family undergoes various dramatic changes including fleeing the war in Vietnam, living in refugee camps and finally adjusting to an extremely different, and sometimes hostile, environment in the rural south of the United States. Written entirely in prose, this book is a beautiful, succinct account of a displaced child's experiences in a new country.
  ameliagilbertson | Jun 9, 2014 |
Newbery Honor Book. National Book Award Winner. Verse novel about a young Vietnamese girl and her experiences before, during, and after she flees to America at the end of the Vietnam War. Based on the author's own experiences when she was ten years old. ( )
  root.katy | Jun 9, 2014 |
I've been meaning to write a review of this for ages. This was an excellent, excellent book--the personalities of Ha (the protagonist) and her three older brothers and mother come through so clearly, and the drama of their flight from Vietnam and settling in Alabama is told with such understated poignance--the hardships are clear but not wallowed in. There's nastiness and racism, but also friendship and understanding.

The novel is told in a series of free-verse poems. I expected this to hamper the development of the plot but on the contrary, it enhanced it. Here's one of my early favorites, from when one of Ha's older brother chops down her grown-from-a-seed papaya tree so the communists won't get to enjoy the fruits:

Black seeds spill
like clusters of eyes,
wet and crying

And here is a verse from when she's attempting to master English

All day
I practice
squeezing hisses
through my teeth.

Whoever invented
must have loved

The papaya ends up being a thread of continuity in Ha's tale. On the boat, fleeing Vietnam, when Ha has just one clump of rice at each meal, she imagines the taste of ripe papaya; in Alabama, "Misssisss Wasshington," a neighbor woman who offers friendship and tutoring, shares a photo album that her son, a soldier who died in Vietnam, made--and there is a photo of a papaya tree. At Christmas time, Mississs Wasshington gives Ha a package of dried papaya that's a sore disappointment to Ha, who tosses it out. Some has been saved on the table, soaked in water, and in remorse, Ha tastes it:



Not the same
But not bad
at all.

Ha's father is missing in action from the beginning of the story, and part of the story has to do with how Ha's mother and Ha and her brothers deal with that fact as they establish themselves in America. This, too, is terribly moving without being maudlin. As the mother of four children, I felt sisterhood and admiration for Ha's mother and was touched by how mutually supportive the family was.

It was a truly wonderful book, and I can't recommend it highly enough. ( )
  FrancescaForrest | May 12, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061962783, Hardcover)

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known 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. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:28 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Through a series of poems, a young girl chronicles the life-changing year of 1975, when she, her mother, and her brothers leave Vietnam and resettle in Alabama.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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