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.