Krista the Krazy Kataloguer's Reviews > Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
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's review
Jul 29, 2016

really liked it
bookshelves: 52-countries-in-2012, read-childrens-books, read-novels-in-verse, read-newbery, read-iic
Read in February, 2012

This book, based on the author's own experiences, is a 2012 Newbery Honor Book as well as the 2011 National Book Award winner for YA fiction, and it certainly deserves both. The story, told in verse, begins in Vietnam during the war, just as Saigon is about to fall to the Communists. Ten-year-old Ha, her mother, and three brothers flee Vietnam in a crowded boat and make it to America, where they try to start a new life. The story describes their first year in Alabama, and particularly Ha's problems with the children in her school, who don't understand her. She, in turn, misinterprets some of their actions as unfriendly, and it isn't until she begins to learn English that she starts to understand. What surprised me was her negative reaction to clapping. It never occurred to me that in some cultures clapping does not mean approval. It must have been especially difficult for Vietnamese refugee immigrants then, with the war being so unpopular, and all the prejudice against them. In addition, the support systems brought about by globalization (email, social networking, global trade) didn't exist then, so refugees could feel very isolated and tend to be insular rather than try to assimilate, which only made many Americans more hostile to them. The book presented an interesting perspective, and one that should generate discussion if this book is used in a classroom setting. Highly recommended! I hope this author writes more.
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07/29 marked as: read

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