Inside Out and Back Again – by Thanhha Lai

This book captivated me with its beauty and honesty. It’s the diary of a young Vietnamese girl named Ha, told in a series of poignant narrative poems. Her journey takes her from war-torn but beloved Saigon, onto a crowded refugee ship, and finally to her bewildering new home of  Alabama. Clashing cultures is a understatement for what Ha experiences. Her story is beautiful, personal, honest, funny, and compelling.

Inside out and back again

I left this book with a renewed sense of compassion and understanding for those around me. Ha doesn’t just teach us about life during the Vietnam War. She shows us a familiar world through new eyes: how fried chicken can be unpalatable, how the English language can be immensely confusing, how well-meant charity can be difficult to live with. We feel her frustration and difficulty in fitting into her a new school that is already divided along white-and-black racial lines and doesn’t seem to have a place for someone who fits with neither. We enter into her family’s interactions, as they struggle alongside one another in the newness. We rejoice in the occasional moments of warmth and understanding she finds around her.

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