Victoria Whipple's Reviews > Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
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Mar 27, 12

bookshelves: family, historical-fiction, tcp, thms, world-cultures
Read in March, 2012

Ha was 10 years old when she arrived in the United States after fleeing Saigon with her mother and 3 brothers. They fled the capital with thousands of others just before the fall of Saigon in the 1975. The story is told in verse, and I was amazed by how the author could express so much of the events and emotions of the main character with such an economy of words. Ha is a smart and sassy girl who has had her world turned upside down. After the trauma of escape and refugee camps, she arrives in Alabama. As if the food, houses, clothes and language weren't enough to get used to, she also has to go to school where she is the only Vietnamese students, and apparently one of the very few non-white students. Where she had been a top student in Vietnam, she is now praised when she counts to 20. The chapter titled "Feel Dumb" tells of this experience, where Lai writes "I'm furious/unable to explain/I already learned/fractions/and how to purify/river water. So this is/what dumb/feels like. I hate, hate, hate it." Ha is a fully developed and realistic character, her mother and brothers are well-drawn, and other characters, both children and adults are serve to advance Ha's story. This is a beautiful story of an immigrant experience, as well as the power of family. Highly recommended for grades 4 and up.
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