Book Concierge's Reviews > Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
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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 entirely in verse, and I applaud Lai for how much she manages to convey in so few words. Ha is a strong little girl, focusing on becoming a star pupil at school (as she had done in Saigon), trying to make friends, to learn the customs and traditions of American celebrations like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, trying to NOT get beaten by bullies. Ha watches her mother work a menial job and slowly acknowledge that her husband is likely dead. In one heart-wrenching poem the child admits:
No one would believe me
but at times
I would choose
wartime in Saigon
peacetime in Alabama

Still the family perseveres, and makes their way in this new land, celebrating each accomplishment, and giving thanks for the opportunity to succeed. It’s a moving story and wonderfully told. It is at once complex and straightforward, nuanced, and simple.

The author note at the end of the work explains that much of what happens to Ha in the novel actually happened to the author.

The book won the National Book Award, and was also named a Newbery Honor Book.

The audiobook is performed by Doan Ly. She has a wonderful delivery for this book. Great pace and she’s believable as a young girl. I did read at least half the book in text format, however because I was anxious to finish it.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 1, 2019 – Finished Reading
March 11, 2019 – Shelved
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: alabama
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: concierge
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: culture
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: debut
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: library
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: middle-school
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: poetry
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: social-commentary
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: strong-women
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: vietnam
March 11, 2019 – Shelved as: audio

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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PattyMacDotComma Wonderful review! It's a touchy subject, moving people to completely foreign places and expecting them to "just fit in". I can imagine there must be times that even war seems preferable to feeling so alienated.

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