Inside Out and Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again I hope you will find and read Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai.  The story takes place in a year.  It is the journal of 10-year old Ha and captures the changes in her life from Tet in 1975 (Year of the Cat) to Tet in 1976 (Year of the Dragon). It is a time of turmoil for Ha. She has lived through the fall of Saigon, escaped her country on an over-crowded boat, become a refugee on Guam and then Florida and been is sponsored by a family in Alabama.  Once there is Alabama, she must learn how to survive in a place that holds little welcome or respect for her differences, nor any love for her homeland.  The book is written in verse.  The words are beautiful, clear and precise.  Here’s one entry:


I wish

Brother Khoi wouldn’t

keep inside

how he endures

the hours of school

that mother wouldn’t

hide her bleeding fingers

that Brother Quang wouldn’t

be so angry after work.

I wish

our cowboy could be persuaded

to buy a horse.

that I cold be invisible

until I can talk back.

that English could be learned

without so many rules.

I wish

Father would appear

in my class

speaking beautiful English

as he does French and Chinese

and hold out his hand

for mine.


I wish

I were


smart.    (p. 158-159)

There is hope as the new year approaches.  Ha and her family will make a new home and find comfort and happiness once more – Ha will always long for home, and yet know this “is not so bad.”

Part of this story is autobiographical.  Much of what Ha experiences, is what the author experienced.  She captures the feelings and emotions clearly so readers have a window her world of confusion, hurt and determination.

A Million Shades of GrayThe Buddha's DiamondsWhen Heaven Fell

Combined with A Million Shades of Gray by Cynthia Kadohata and The Buddha’s Diamonds and When Heaven Fell by Carolyn Marsden readers canl learn much about Vietnam  – the country, the people and the process of healing and begin to understand a bit more about loss.