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"Oh, my daughter, at times you have to fight, but preferably not with your fist."–Inside Out and Back Again
Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
AR Test, Teaches About Culture
Despite the war, Hἁ loves her home in Saigon. She loves going to the market, her friends, and family traditions. Best of all, Hἁ has her very own papaya tree. When Saigon falls, Hἁ’s family is forced to move to America. But once they get to America, adjusting to a new culture, a new language, and new traditions are more difficult than Hἁ imagined.
Told from Hἁ’s point of view, Inside Out & Back Again is a story that gives the reader a glimpse of life in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Hἁ’s conflict with other people and with her own feelings shows the confusion of adapting to a new culture. Written in poetry format with beautiful descriptions, children will enjoy this engaging story.
- When Hἁ’s neighbor hugs and kisses a man, Hἁ thinks, “only husbands and wives do that when alone.”
- The story takes place during the Vietnam War. On TV, “a pilot from South Vietnam bombed the presidential palace downtown that afternoon. Afterward the pilot flew north and received a medal.”
- When South Vietnam loses the war, a “woman tries to throw herself overboard, screaming that without a country she cannot live.”
- When they get to America, someone throws a brick through the family’s window “along with a note. Brother Quang refuses to translate.”
- A teacher shows pictures of “a burned, naked girl running, crying down a dirt road/of people climbing, screaming, desperate to get on the last helicopter out of Saigon.”
- At school, Hἁ is teased. When a boy threatens to beat up Hἁ, she hits him. “A thud. Pink boy writhes on the pavement.”
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Hἁ’s mother discovers that those whose visa applications say “Christians” get sponsored quicker, her mother “amends our faith, saying all beliefs are pretty much the same.”
- In order to be more accepted into the American community, Hἁ and her family get baptized.