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Inside Out & Back Again

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  55,562 ratings  ·  7,777 reviews
For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its st ...more
Hardcover, 262 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins
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GuitarGirl Yes, and it is also in verse which makes it that much better!!
Paul The book is about how a family survives after losing everything to a war: a father and husband, a home, a chick, and an identity. So yes, there is sad…moreThe book is about how a family survives after losing everything to a war: a father and husband, a home, a chick, and an identity. So yes, there is sadness. And joy. And hope. (less)
Okay for Now by Gary D. SchmidtA Monster Calls by Patrick NessWonderstruck by Brian SelznickDivergent by Veronica RothInside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
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Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  55,562 ratings  ·  7,777 reviews

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Emily May
Apr 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
No one would believe me
but at times
I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama.

I'd been saving this for when my kids got a little older so we could read it together, but when Helen Hoang mentioned it in the author's note for The Bride Test, I knew I couldn't wait that long. No matter, I'll read it again with them in a few years. It's a beautiful little book.

Inside Out & Back Again is a free verse poem that tells the tale of a Vietnamese family fleeing South Vietnam just before th
Ahmad Sharabiani
Inside Out & Back Again, Thanhha Lai

Inside Out & Back Again is a verse novel by Thanhha Lai. The book was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and one of the two Newbery Honors.

The novel was based on her first year in the United States, as a ten-year-old girl who spoke no English in 1975. Inside Out and Back Again is a story about a young girl named Kim Hà and her family being forced to move to the United States because the Vietnam War had reached their home, and i
Apr 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
{This review originally appeared on Clear Eyes, Full Shelves.}
I now understand
when they make fun of my name,
yelling ha-ha-ha down the hall
when they ask if I eat dog meat,
barking and chewing and falling down laughing
when they wonder if I lived in the jungle with tigers,
growling and stalking on all fours.

I understand
because Brother Khoi
nodded into my head
on the bike ride home
when I asked if kids
said the same things
at his school.

Thanhha Lai writes her verses in her award winning middle grade novel
Jun 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: diverse-reads
“I’m practicing
to be seen.”

This book grabbed my attention with its beautiful cover, and I’m really glad that it did. Inside Out and Back Again tells the tale of Kim Hà and her journey during wartime in Vietnam.

Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward Alabama.

In America, the family has to start anew, where they discover the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of their very o
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/#ud...

For those of you who know me, you might remember last year I discovered my youngest was failing to get his required nightly reading completed by opting to sit on the toilet and stare at the wall for 20 minutes every night rather than ever opening a flippin’ book. That little revelation led to us buddy reading Wonder. Unfortunately the boy child still appears to have been swapped with someone else’s baby and has yet to discover th
Julie G ("Doctor, my eyes!"  Offline for a week)
Even if rivers run dry and rocks are polished smooth, a silkworm, upon death, still emits silk.
--Nguyễn Du

Our selection for “Alabama” took us first to Vietnam, and my daughters and I were happy to add a little international flavor to our American reading project this year.

This middle grades novel, Inside Out & Back Again, is the semi-autobiographical version of Thanhha Lai's story. . . told from the perspective of a fictional girl, Hà. We come to know Hà and her family, learn of their prosperous
Jan 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 8th-grade
Let me tell you something. If I wasn't forced to write so many essay's about this stupid book, then I might have enjoyed it more. Maybe if we didn't have to analyze every sentence discussing every little detail until I accidentally tear one of the papers out because we had to flip back so many times, I probably might have enjoyed it more. This could have been a great book, and it's a shame that the new common core thinks we are "Learning" from writing useless paragraphs on how Ha's experience re ...more
Feb 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Thinking about the most memorable of children's novels, one trait in all of them has to ring true in order for them to click with their readers. The books must contain some kind of "meaning". Even the frothiest Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-type offering isn't going to remain long in the public's brain if there isn't at least a little "meaning" slipped in there. Now when I use the term "meaning" I'm being purposefully vague because it's not the kind of thing you can easily define. What is me ...more
Read this straight through in one evening. It repeatedly put me in mind of an outstanding teacher at my school, whose family immigrated to the United States when she was about Ha's age. When we had a "Guess That Baby Picture" contest at school, she brought a school photo of herself around the age of 8, because that was all she had. There were no baby photos of her, no visual memories of her early years; they were too poor for photographs. All through this book I kept thinking, "I wonder if this ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry-and-prose
I always love a good verse novel, and this book was just that.

A story about immigration and attempts to adapt to a new culture, Inside Out & Back Again was truly beautiful and heartwarming. It touched me emotionally on the struggles Hà had to deal with.
Hà is different from everyone around her. She is a Vietnamese girl among Americans. She is the weird black-haired girl in her school. She is the girl everyone makes fun of. Despite all this, Hà tries to stay strong and continues working and hopin
3.5 stars

This was a short read about a young girl who had just been placed din America during the Vietnam war. This was an important story from an immigrant and even though most of us will never understand what this person went through, it was interesting to get a glimpse into her life and hardships.
Audio book source: Hoopla
Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrators: Doan Ly
Narration Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction Middle Grade
Length: 2h 3m
¸¸.•*¨*•♫ Mrs. Buttercup •*¨*•♫♪
Our lives
will twist and twist,
intermingling the old and the new
until it doesn't matter
which is which.

A short book about the experience of a little girl escaping from Saigon to Alabama, facing the hard life of an immigrant: the cultural shock, the homesickness, the rejection from the community. I appreciated it as a document of an experience (the book is based on the author's life), not as much as a novel. I suppose it would be educational for a child, but for an adult it has unfortunately very
Kristy K
This book has been on my radar (and my shelves) for a while and I’m glad I finally read it. Told in verse from the POV of 10 year old Hà, we get a glimpse into life in Vietnam during the war, the journey of a refugee, and the struggles to adapt and be accepted in a new country. Truly a wonderful, heartfelt (and sometimes heartbreaking) book.
Hey, reviewers? A lot of you are using the word "prose" where you mean "poetry", and I can't take it.

Also, there are actually lots and lots of kids' and YA books written in verse. Thanks.

Anyway, actual review: I find it difficult to review this, just like I found it difficult to review the last novel-in-verse about a Vietnamese refugee in the 1970s that I read, All the Broken Pieces. Like anything negative I might say is me judging the immigrant experience itself.

At first I didn't like this that
Book Concierge
Audiobook performed by Doan Ly

Ha is the 10-year-old daughter of a Vietnamese Navy Officer who has gone missing while on a mission. As the Americans pull out of the war and Saigon is about to fall, Ha and her family escape the country via ship. Eventually they gain a sponsor, and the family tries to start over in the USA, a strange land, where the language, food, customs and religion are all different than what they are used to.

This middle-grade novel focusing on the immigrant experience is told
Cherisa B
Nov 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Mostly a memoir of the author as a 10 year old Vietnamese girl, from Tet in 1975 through January 1976. Written in prose, we see Ha’s life as the only girl and youngest child in a family with three brothers. Their mother is raising them alone because her husband has been missing in the war for nearly 9 years but she’s not given up hope for his return. Their decision to leave when the South falls, afloat at sea on an overcrowded ship with only one working engine, rescue at sea by the US Navy, refu ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Book #6 for Middle Grade March

Challenge #4 - A book set in another country
It's a book I didn't know exist until a few days ago, and I'm truly glad it came into my life.

This book deeply touched me because my dad's own family immigrated from Vietnam to France and the Vietnamese culture is one I grew up hearing about but never truly experienced it.

This story follows Hà, her mother and three brothers, through their journey from a Vietnam at war to an American that doesn't necessarily welcome them with opened arms. It's a book about being stripped off your culture, your la
Liz Janet
Oct 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Putting side that I was not the biggest fan of the writing, because I do not think that simply separating sentences with a lot of space is poetry, the story and her experiences made up for it.
“Whoever invented English
should have learned
to spell.”

It is not often that I see a book about immigration to which I can relate. I come from an European background and nationally, I am Caribbean, so I have the whole, not a native English speaker, but still get white privilege thing. This book took me back
Jill Williamson
What a wonderful book! I so appreciated seeing through Há's eyes as she and her family moved from Saigon to Alabama and all that they went through, trying to grieve what was left behind and adapt to what was new. This is a wonderful book to help kids understand what immigration can be like (and to some degree, how it feels to be a new student from a far away place). It did a wonderful job of both educating and building empathy. It would also be a great book to use to study Vietnamese culture. Th ...more
Aug 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
"No one would believe me
but at times/I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama."

This prize winning book is powerful and sad. A young girl named Kim Ha has to leave Vietnam during the war and ends up in the southern State of Alabama.

To begin with, Kim Ha's father has been MIA for 10 years, and after they leave for America they wonder how he can find them if he comes home. So already Kim Ha has sadness in her heart. There is so much more that she has to leave in Vietnam, mainly her p
Neil (or bleed)
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was an emotional read. Told in poems/poetry, I was captured by its lines and stanzas and the experience of witnessing a war.
Jun 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
10-year old Hà, her older brothers and mother miss their father/husband, a naval officer, who never returned from a mission. Their lives in Saigon are torn asunder when the city is attacked by the North, and they are fortunate to escape via a river route. Landing in a refugee camp, they eventually come to America, where a farmer from Alabama agrees to sponsor them all. Things are difficult for all, but especially Hà, who is placed with younger children despite her aptitude for learning. She beco ...more
I don't recommend listening to this one. The narration is stiff and the Vietnamese words are spoken in italics (see Older's thoughts on italicizing a native language)

I didn't read this one with my eyes because I have an aversion to novels in verse. While they can be more nuanced than the typical novel and though you have to work harder to get to the depths due to a scarcity of words, they seem choppy to me, jarring, and a little flighty. I'm not a fan of poetry, either, so the whole paint a big
Aug 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story, told in verse, about a young girl emigrating to America from Vietnam at the end of the war. Delicate and tender, I picked it up at the library to flip through while my kids chose books, and became fully engrossed. Read it in less than an hour. I hope that this is being used in schools, as an important way to talk about both poetry and the Vietnam War.
Lisa (Remarkablylisa)
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Perfect for young readers who do not understand racism and what it's like to be an immigrant. This book is also based off of the author's experiences which makes it so much more important to talk about. ...more
Inside Out & Back Again is the debut novel from Thanhha Lai, who incorporates her own childhood memories of fleeing the Vietnam war as a refugee to Alabama in the 1970s. I love middle grades quasi-memoir, especially when I see that it is written in verse, so I pinned this one to the top of my TBR when a student mentioned it to me earlier in 2019. This is the first book I have read while being absolutely positive that I will be teaching sixth grade English (!) for the foreseeable future. Reading ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This moving novel in verse chronicles a year in the life of a young girl who must leave behind all that is familiar for a world where everything is strange and new. It is 1975, and as the war draws closer to her Saigon, Vietnam home, Ha reflects on the whereabouts of her missing father and the family's difficult straits. When they have the chance to flee, the family boards a boat, eventually ending up in Alabama. The book illustrates perfectly many of the struggles immigrants face as they deal w ...more
Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride)
A poignant exploration of the refugee experience as told by a child, Inside Out & Back Again was as beautiful and hopeful as it was heartbreaking.

Ha is such a curious and independent child, with so much intelligence and emotional maturity. Her experiences as a refugee from Vietnam echo those of the author, Thanhha Lai, and paint a vivid picture of the experiences of those who escaped Vietnam across the sea.

Refugees are so often treated with disrespect and subjected to racism and xenophobia. I b
A short, but significant, story. This book is one of the reasons reading is so important. How else would we understand what it feels like to be a refugee? I firmly believe if more people read this or similar books, there would be fewer acts of xenophobia. I've never read a book written in free verse, but I absolutely loved it. I thought the fact that the author could get you to feel so much for the characters with so few words was amazing. Highly recommended.

"Her brows twist
so much
we hush."

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Thanhha Lai was born in Vietnam. At the end of the war, she fled with her family to Alabama. There, she learned English from fourth graders and then spent the next decade correcting her grammar. Starting her writing life as a journalist, she worked at The Orange County Register. She switched to fiction, leading to an MFA from New York University and short story publications in various journals and ...more

Articles featuring this book

  Ellen Oh is an award-winning author of middle grade and young adult novels such as Spirit Hunters, The Dragon Egg Princess, and A Thousand...
61 likes · 6 comments
“Oh, my daughter,
at times you have to fight,
but preferably
not with your fists.”
“Mother says,
People share
when they know they have escaped hunger.

Shouldn't people share
because there is hunger?”
More quotes…