Inside Out and Back Again

Thanhha Lai, Author
Thanhha Lai, Harper, $15.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-196278-3
Reviewed on: 01/31/2011
Release date: 02/01/2011
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-06-206972-6
Open Ebook - 270 pages - 978-0-7022-5116-0
Paperback - 262 pages
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-0-7022-5117-7
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4640-2098-8
Open Ebook - 270 pages - 978-1-306-01412-0
Hardcover - 284 pages - 978-4-7902-3288-9
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Narrating in sparse free-verse poems, 10-year-old Hà brings a strong, memorable voice to the immigrant experience as her family moves from war-torn South Vietnam to Alabama in 1975. First-time author Lai, who made the same journey with her family, divides her novel into four sections set in Vietnam, "At Sea," and the last two in Alabama. Lai gives insight into cultural and physical landscapes, as well as a finely honed portrait of Hà's family as they await word about Hà's POW father and face difficult choices (awaiting a sponsor family, "...Mother learns/ sponsors prefer those/ whose applications say ‘Christians.'/ Just like that/ Mother amends our faith,/ saying all beliefs/ are pretty much the same"). The taut portrayal of Hà's emotional life is especially poignant as she cycles from feeling smart in Vietnam to struggling in the States, and finally regains academic and social confidence. A series of poems about English grammar offer humor and a lens into the difficulties of adjusting to a new language and customs ("Whoever invented English/ should be bitten/ by a snake"). An incisive portrait of human resilience. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
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