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Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai


No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. 


First line:
1975: Year of the Cat
Today is Tet,
the first day
of the lunar calendar.

A history lesson of Saigon's people written in free verse and set in two countries; Vietnam and America.
A lesson of patience, love, family, endurance, bullying, sacrifice and generosity.
Ha is a young girl living in Saigon on the verge of war. Her family slips on a navy ship defecting from Vietnam and sails to a land of promise, America. The voyage is hard. Trying to fit into an all white school is even harder. But the strength of her family and friendship in unusual places guides and helps her.
I read this easily in one day. The images of a young girl relearning a whole new life stuck with me throughout the next few days.
Worth reading out loud to children/students to give them a good perspective of a person of a different nationality and their struggles.

Rating: PG
V: Bullying
L: No
S:  No

5 STARS


25% test (p. 65):

"In the Dark
Uncle Son visits
and whispers to Mother.
We follow Mother
who follows Uncle Son
who leads his family
up to the deck
and off the ship.
It has been said
the ship next door
has a better engine,
more water,
endless fuel,
countless salty eggs.
Uncle Son lingers
without getting on
the new ship;
so do we.
Hordes pour by us,
beyond us."

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