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Inside Out & Back Again

by Thanhha Lai

Published by Harper/HarperCollins, 2011
262 pages
ISBN: trade 978𢠢61962783

Ages 10-13

In South Vietnam in 1975, ten-year-old Ha lives with her mother and three older brothers. The violence of the Vietnam War reaches them in the midst of celebrating Tet梀ietnamese New Year. With Saigon falling, Ha抯 family makes it onto a transport ship. Their journey抯 ultimate end is the American Deep South: Alabama. Thanhha Lai抯 novel chronicles Ha抯 family抯 flight and adaptation to their new life in poems full of insight and sharp humor. For Ha, it抯 not just language and food and culture that are foreign, it抯 the faces and attitudes around her and the feelings she has about herself. While some people in their new community are kind to Ha抯 Vietnamese family, others are not. When her new teacher tells the class to clap when Ha counts to twenty in English, Ha is 揻urious / unable to explain / I already learned / fractions / and how to purify / river water. / So this is / what dumb / feels like. / I hate, hate, hate it. Ha抯 struggle with esteem, and the profound sense of longing in the story for what has been left behind, is balanced by the sense of looking forward to a future of hope as the strange new place begins to feel like home. Lai抯 writing vividly conveys characters, scenes, and emotions in this compelling debut.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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