Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai

Rating: 5 stars

Written in prose, Inside Out & Back Again is the story of 10-year-old Kim Ha, who escapes Saigon during the Vietnam War and moves with her mother and her three brothers to Alabama. Ha poignantly describes a war-time Saigon - her home, filled with family, photographs and plenty of papaya - and a peace-time Alabama, where she is bullied by her American classmates just for being Vietnamese.

I'm not typically a fan of poetry and prose, but I found myself sucked into this almost immediately. The sights, smells, tastes, and colors of Saigon are vibrantly brought to life by this innocent and matter-of-fact 10 year old. And then to juxtapose that war torn city with Alabama - a place that is relatively safe yet strange and unwelcoming... it was so incredibly beautiful.

One of my favorite passages is from the Alabama section of the novel, in which Ha is trying to ask their American sponsor, whom she refers to as "Cowboy", if he has a horse:

"To make it worse,
the cowboy explains
horses here go
neigh, neigh, neigh,
not hee, hee, hee
No they don't.
Where am I?" 
It's so simple, that passage - but speaks volumes. And that is what Thanhha Lai is able to do throughout this wonderful book.

Purchase Now from Amazon: Inside Out and Back Again


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Of course this is not my experience of Alabama. It was two narrow a slice of an entire state, not that she could help it. But, it's not like parts of Alabama don't concur exactly with her description, unfortunately.

    1. I especially loved the very subtle inclusion of a character who practices Holiness!

  3. I love that you're reviewing a lot of cultural books. Being able to see the world through another perspective is a great tool to teach.


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