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The Language Inside by Holly Thompson

The Language Inside

by Holly Thompson

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The Language Inside by Holly Thompson is a novel in verse, realistic fiction.

Emma Karas is a white girl, but she's really more Japanese than American. She has lived in Japan most of her life and loves the culture and food. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves outside Lowell, Massachusetts for medical treatment. Emma is devastated. Her best friend's family was hit badly by the tsunami and Emma feels she should stay and help. Upon arriving in the United States, Emma feels lost without the food and culture she loves. Her grandmother opens her home to the family but serves American food.

Upon the urging of her grandmother, Emma begins volunteering with a woman at a facility who cannot speak or move due to a massive stroke. Emma and Zena form a bond over poetry. Emma is really good with Zena and even helps Zena's daughter learn how to communicate with her mother. Emma meets Samnang who drives her places and volunteers with her. She also joins activities at school and begins to make friends. She still feels guilty and misses Japan, but she's beginning to find a way to belong. She's never had migraines but develops them upon living in the US. When her mother's recovery will take longer than anticipated, Emma's father has to return to work in Japan. Emma feels pulled between a life she loves and her new budding life.

The novel is quick to read because it's told in verse; it's engaging and interesting. I liked Emma because she's a do-er. She is active and cares about people and is good at just about everything. I think she could have been more concerned about her mother; she came off as a little self-centered. It's a realistic look at the vagaries of change in one's life. ( )
  acargile | Jul 28, 2014 |
Next in my continuing efforts to discover a love for verse, I picked up Holly Thompson’s The Language Inside. I also own a copy of her novel Orchards, so I’m glad I liked this one. Sadly, I’m still not really a verse person, but I was able to enjoy The Language Inside in spite of my remaining skepticism towards verse.

Read the full review at A Reader of Fictions. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Jun 3, 2014 |
Right after a tsunami in Japan where Emma has always lived she learns she must go to Massachusetts so her mother can get breast cancer treatments. ( )
  TeamDewey | Mar 2, 2014 |
Excellent story of young adult from Japan to MA. A poet who helps others and her transition to living in America. The verse novel is easy to read and profound.
  CoriatLib | Dec 14, 2013 |
Emma Karas, a Caucasian American raised in Japan, considers herself Japanese. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and the family must return to the U.S., Emma feels displaced from her home, especially as the move coincides with the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that devastates part of the country. Living in New England with her paternal grandmother, Emma longs for the familiarity of Japanese food, culture and friends. However, a volunteer job in a rehabilitation center and a chance meeting with a Cambodian American boy gives her reason to acclimate. Both young people are charged with creating poetry .However, Samsang, a complex Cambodian boy, also helps refugees from Pol Pot’s regime deal with survivor’s guilt. This is a remarkable, visually arresting book. Thompson writes in free verse because Emma and the stroke victim she aids write poetry, one letter at a time, and Emma journals her own poems. The format of the book is evocative in a way that I have seldom encountered with edged page designs and origami cranes decorating the pages. As a migraine sufferer, Emma tells us about her pain, but Holly Thompson shows us her symptoms, the aura and partial blindness that so many migraine sufferers know, with the rearrangement of words and empty spaces. It is an astonishingly accurate visual depiction of what a migraine feels like. This is a book full of teachable moments and themes: displacement, survivors’ guilt, identity, loyalty, illness, friendship, and family. The ability of Zena, the stroke survivor, to express her inner turmoil through poetry, will inspire young readers to try their hand at their own poems. This is a story that belongs in that rare collection of cross-over books because of the elevated quality of the writing and the masterful handling of difficult themes.
  LRGross50 | Nov 29, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385739796, Hardcover)

A nuanced novel in verse that explores identity in a multicultural world.

Emma Karas was raised in Japan; it's the country she calls home. But when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Emma's family moves to a town outside Lowell, Massachusetts, to stay with Emma's grandmother while her mom undergoes treatment.

Emma feels out of place in the United States.She begins to have migraines, and longs to be back in Japan. At her grandmother's urging, she volunteers in a long-term care center to help Zena, a patient with locked-in syndrome, write down her poems. There, Emma meets Samnang, another volunteer, who assists elderly Cambodian refugees. Weekly visits to the care center, Zena's poems, dance, and noodle soup bring Emma and Samnang closer, until Emma must make a painful choice: stay in Massachusetts, or return home early to Japan.

“With beautiful language and deep sensitivity, Holly Thompson explores the courage it takes to find your own voice.” —Patricia McCormick, author of National Book Award finalist Never Fall Down
“Thompson’s eloquent novel speaks to us, carrying us along with Emma as she embarks on a life-altering journey from Japan to America. But it’s Emma’s inner journey that’s the true adventure—pulsing with pain and passion, with humor, heart, and hope.” —Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know and To Be Perfectly Honest

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:46 -0400)

Raised in Japan, American-born tenth-grader Emma is disconcerted by a move to Massachusetts for her mother's breast cancer treatment, because half of Emma's heart remains with her friends recovering from the tsunami.

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