Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again

Book - 2011
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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.
Publisher: New York : Harper, 2011
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780061962783
0061962783
Branch Call Number: J LAI
Characteristics: 262 pages ; 22 cm
Alternative Title: Inside out and back again

Opinion

From Library Staff

Global Reading Challenge 2018

Global Reading Challenge 2014, 2018

Ten-year-old refugee Hà and her mother and brothers flee the fall of Saigon and resettle in Alabama in this National Book Award-winning children’s book based on Lai’s childhood experiences.


From the critics


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j
JakeFuture905
Jul 14, 2018

This book is amazing! It opened a doorway into a new world for me. Most of us know about refugees from wars like the Syrian civil war and the Vietnam war, but few of us actually understand what's going on. Amazing read for anyone who can understand it.

JCLEmilyD Feb 25, 2017

Oh how I loved this book! It is wonderfully written in a series of poems by a 10 year-old girl leaving her home in Vietnam because of the war.

v
violet_owl_155
Jun 10, 2015

Sort of sad that the girl had to leave her friends and that her schoolmates picked on her.

b
BUNBUN1978
Jun 03, 2015

I am not a big fan of books in verse so I was a bit reluctant to read this. I am glad i did it was a good book. It verse makes it a very quick read. It might be a good book to give to reluctant readers.

s
sxl
Jan 27, 2015

beautiful, clear, succinct, poignant tale of a young girl escaping Saigon and finding a life in Alabama. Reflects beauty and ugliness of American culture. Informative of "normal" life in Saigon, not just the effect of war, and of Vietnamese culture.

LibrLdyMapleValley Jan 23, 2015

Every New Year brings the war closer and closer to Ha's Saigon home. But the idea of leaving is unthinkable. Ha desperately holds onto the hope that her father, who has been missing in action for nearly nine years, will walk back in the door one day and if the family leaves then how will he find them? But as the bombs reach the outskirts of the city her mother knows it's time to run.
They can only take a very few things with them when the city falls to the Communist army, just what they can carry. Her mother takes 10 family photos and burns the rest and Ha would like to take her beloved papaya tree that she's grown from seed but, of course, that's impossible. It feels like she's losing everything she's ever loved when she goes from being deeply rooted in Vietnam to being rootless in a world that doesn't seem to want anything to do with her. In the crush of thousands of people trying to escape the bombing they end up on an overcrowded ship with their few belongings and not enough of the essentials like food. Before long they're floating around in the ocean, lost on an overcrowded ship and starving.
When they do finally land they end up in the United States. Alabama to be exact and it feels like they're still in a war zone. People, kids and adults, bully and threaten Ha daily. Life is alien and hard. Adjusting to this new existence takes time, the love of her family and the kindness of strangers. The journey is unforgettable.
Author Thanhha Lai has written this semi autobiographical novel of survival in a time of great change in free verse which works beautifully. Her ability to capture complex and intense moments through lyrical verse is impressive. Inside Out and Back Again is in the same arena as Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy in dealing with frightening historical events in a way that is wonderfully accessible for children in grades 4 on up.

i
iluvbooks7
Jun 18, 2014

I loved this book! Poetry was a unique way to share this touching story.

litriocht Jun 17, 2014

In one particularly memorable scene, Hà is asked to recite some basic words, like the alphabet letters and a few numbers, in front of her new, American classmates. For this simple task, she receives applause. Her anger at this reaction is almost palpable. At home, she is the best student! Yet here, she is lauded for knowledge that a much younger student would know.

Anyone who has learned a second language can relate to Hà's sense of frustration at scenes like this. Even her name is taken from her, as most Americans don't catch the falling tone as shown by the diacritical mark; instead, her name is mispronounced as the sound of laughter. Despite this indignity and many others, this young Vietnamese girl persists in learning English and successfully transitioning to her new life.

Red_Cobra_111 May 19, 2014

this book is a really good book! Like I said in the love that dog thing this book has a lot of poetry in it and that makes it nice to read because the order of the words are not striate forward. you might be thinking that poetry is boring but you are wrong! this book does not have that kind of poetry that you don't want to read. this book has the kin of poetry that tells a story, and that is a good kind of poetry to read!

c
copicmarker
Feb 06, 2014

very good!

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Age

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j
JakeFuture905
Jul 14, 2018

JakeFuture905 thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

v
vv19
Apr 14, 2018

vv19 thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

t
thevales
Apr 14, 2018

thevales thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

o
olive_coyote_41
Sep 13, 2017

olive_coyote_41 thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

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green_llama_123
Jul 04, 2015

green_llama_123 thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

blue_baboon_1365 Feb 05, 2015

blue_baboon_1365 thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

i
indigo_zebra_104
Jul 12, 2014

indigo_zebra_104 thinks this title is suitable for 9 years and over

Red_Cobra_111 May 19, 2014

Red_Cobra_111 thinks this title is suitable for 6 years and over

c
copicmarker
Feb 06, 2014

copicmarker thinks this title is suitable for 8 years and over

p
pinkuinchik0025
Jul 02, 2013

pinkuinchik0025 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 9 and 13

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Summary

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j
JakeFuture905
Jul 14, 2018

Inside Out and Back Again, Thanhha Lai’s first book, is a book about a 10-year-old girl, Kim Ha, escaping the Vietnam War in 1975. Ultimately, Ha reaches a town in Alabama, where she begins her new life. It describes hope in a bottomless pit of despair and war.

The style of the book makes it a more emotional story. The book is written from a first-person angle. This makes the story line more personal and somewhat more relatable to an individual. A nostalgic feeling persists through most of the book. A yearning for home is proven with Ha stating that she would choose war in Saigon over peace in Alabama. The formatting of the book – verse – makes it a relatively quick read. In other words, you can have a better story in less time. Styling is usually the key to perfection – something this book does seemingly effortlessly.

The pages of this book are filled with literary devices. Imagery is relied on heavily by Thanhha. This is evident from when the author describes pieces of chicken with golden crusts that smell perfect. Onomatopoeia is also used. Sounding happens mainly on pages 173 and 185, and there are the S’s in Mrs. Washington’s name emphasized as MiSSSisss WaSShington. Metaphors and similes are also plentiful in this book. Examples of the metaphors and similes include: “smelling like the sun”, “explode like thunder”, “gaunt like bark”, and “crinkles like paper on fire”. These devices make the story much more descriptive and interesting.

The content is deep and requires some thinking while being read. The ideas are easy to understand but difficult to imagine. A new doorway is opened – into the life of a refugee, a life most of us have never known, never experienced. This book provides a bridge into the real world, with realistic tensions between governments. The descriptions in the book expand and enhance the concepts to emphasize differences between life in Vietnam and life in America. Ha’s words revolve mainly around descriptions of snacks like papayas, coconuts, corn, pineapples, fried dough, and many other dishes of Vietnamese cuisine. With this book, a gateway is unlocked with the key of knowledge and experience.

Overall, Inside Out and Back Again is a great read for anyone who can understand the subject matter. Thanhha Lai has managed to amass her experiences, as poems, into an amazing book.

v
vv19
Apr 14, 2018

This book was a great read-out-loud book for my kids. It is written in verse and each poem had a different feel to it. All the poems came together to make a beautiful story about a young girl striving to find a place in a new land after war displaces her family. It makes you laugh and cry. A great story to build an understanding of other cultures.

olive_bird_01 Jun 13, 2015

Inside Out and Back Again is the story of Ha and her family being forced to move to the United States because the Vietnam War had reached their home, and it was no longer safe. They board a navy ship and flee.Upon spending a couple months at a refugee camp, they end up moving to Alabama. There she struggles with learning English and bullies, including Pink Boy, at her new school. Hà has once said, "No one would believe me but at times know I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama."[4] Eventually, she has pushed through those hard times with the help of their next door neighbor—Miss Washington—and the support of her family. In the beginning of the book, it mentions that Hà's father-a soldier in the Vietnam war-left when she was only a year old. In the end, Hà's family figures out that fortunately, the father isn't dead and is living in New York City. Hà then gets used to living in the U.S and her family celebrates the new year. She prays for good things to happen to her and her family.

olive_bird_01 Jun 13, 2015

Inside Out and Back Again is the story of Ha and her family being forced to move to the United States because the Vietnam War had reached their home, and it was no longer safe. They board a navy ship and flee.Upon spending a couple months at a refugee camp, they end up moving to Alabama. There she struggles with learning English and bullies, including Pink Boy, at her new school. Hà has once said, "No one would believe me but at times know I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama."[4] Eventually, she has pushed through those hard times with the help of their next door neighbor—Miss Washington—and the support of her family. In the beginning of the book, it mentions that Hà's father-a soldier in the Vietnam war-left when she was only a year old. In the end, Hà's family figures out that fortunately, the father isn't dead and is living in New York City. Hà then gets used to living in the U.S and her family celebrates the new year. She prays for good things to happen to her and her family.

b
BradyRhys
Mar 26, 2013

This is the story of a young girl named Ha who is forced to move with her family to America because of the Vietnam War that has reached her homeland. They start a new life in Alabama that Ha finds challenging because she does not fit in with the culture around her. Eventually, with the help of her teacher, Ha finds herself and begins to enjoy her new life in Alabama.

c
CourtneyHendon
Jan 19, 2013

This story is about Ha` and her family being forced from her home in Vietnam to move to the United States because of a war. Ha` and her family moved to Alabama to start over. Although, Ha` and her three brothers were bullied and taunted by the children at school and their neighbors, they found hope in each other and one of their neighbors Miss Washington.

ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD Aug 25, 2012

“No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.” Ha has known both in her life, actually. Born in Vietnam during the war, Ha lives with her mother and three older brothers. Her father disappeared years ago on a navy mission when Ha was just one. Today the family doesn’t even know if he’s alive, but when the chance comes to flee Saigon and make a new life in America, Ha’s mother doesn’t hesitate. Once they’re settled in Alabama, Ha has a whole new set of problems ahead of her. She’s homesick, mad that she’s no longer the smartest girl in class, and tormented after school by some of the boys. Yet the solution, it seems, is not to become someone different but to take what she is already and find a way to make her new life work.

Quotes

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j
JakeFuture905
Jul 14, 2018

"This year I hope I truly learn to fly-kick, not to kick anyone so much as to fly."

JCLEmilyD Feb 25, 2017

Oh, my daughter,
at times you have to fight,
but preferably not with your fists.

b
BradyRhys
Mar 26, 2013

I could not find a quote in the book that supported the books idea very well.

n
Nancy J Mata
Feb 24, 2013

"This year I Hope"
"No more Migration
No more letters
No more family"

c
CourtneyHendon
Jan 19, 2013

"Oh, my daughter, at times you have to fight, but preferably not with your fists."

ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD Aug 25, 2012

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

ELIZABETH RAMSEY BIRD Aug 25, 2012

“On one side of the bright, noisy room, light skin. Other side, dark skin. Both laughing, chewing, as if it never occurred to them someone medium would show up.”

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