Hi reading friends– Just finished with Inside Out and Back Again–the story of a ten year old girl, Ha, as she intrepidly escapes from war torn Viet Nam with her mother and 3 brothers to start a life in the southern United States. I don’t know why I loved this book so much. Maybe because we were immigrants ourselves the years we lived in Spain or maybe it’s that my 3rd grade class is peppered with immigrant children. But it’s most likely because author, Thanhha Lai has used the simplest vingettes of a young life with such precision that you understand implicitly the fears and losses of young Ha. And you rejoice at her small successes and tenuous first steps to make a new home.
The story is prose written in the form of poetry–simple and spare. When the mother sews each one of them a cloth bag to carry a few things away, they get “one choice,” so Ha brings along her tattered doll. When they are finally rescued at sea by an American navy ship, the soldiers hand them “cold bubbly drinks” and chocolate. When Ha arrives at American school she knows all see her as “dumb,” even though she was a stellar student in Viet Nam. Ha grows to love Mrs. Washington who guides her through the frustrating intricacies of learning English and shares photos of her son who died in Viet Nam.
Each small scrap of story pulls you along, anxious for little Ha and her family. It’s one of those books you can’t put down and in the end you can’t forget. Beautiful and poignant.
Newberry Honor Award Book and a National Book Award Winner