Friday, April 19, 2013

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Based on the author's own experiences, Thanhha Lai has created a book for young adults that tells the story of her escape during the fall of Saigon in the Vietnam war.  Ha, is a brave 10 year old girl who has to leave behind her home, her beloved papaya tree and the hope that her father, who has been missing for 9 years, will find them.  Her family escapes aboard a Navy ship in the harbor and float slowly down the river to the ocean.  They float in darkness, with rationed food, crowded aboard a ship waiting for rescue.  Weeks pass by.

“After two weeks at sea
the commander calls
all of us above deck
for a formal lowering of
our yellow flag
with three red stripes.

South Vietnam no longer exists.”  Pg.85

They are refugees, who have lost their country and the only home they’ve ever known because of war.  They land in Guam, live in a city of tents and eat canned fruit as they wait for someone to sponsor them.

“Our sponsor
looks just like
an American should.

Tall and pig-bellied,
Black cowboy hat,
Tan cowboy boots,
Teeth shining,
Red in face,
Golden in hair.

I love him
And imagine him
To be a good-hearted and loud
And the owner of a horse.” Pg.111

Their sponsor, the cowboy, takes them to his home in Alabama.

Inside Out and Back Again takes place over the period of one year.  Ha faces many challenges but finds outs how strong her family is after they have suffered so much.  This is a story about a resilient family, their difficult journey, and the adjustments they make, as they settle into a new country and a new way of life.

Lai has done a spectacular job of creating a novel for adolescents that captures the experience of growing up in a country that is foreign to you.  Inside Out and Back Again is well-written, entertaining and award winning.

Guess what my seventh grader will be reading this summer?