Ideas for Learners Promoting Literacy, Inquiry, and Meaningful Learning Experiences

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai


Book Summary

Ten-year-old Ha and her family are forced to leave their home in South Vietnam as the war rages and Saigon collapses in turmoil.  They take a boat to the United States, and are sponsored by a family in Alabama, where no one else has black hair or speaks a language other than English.  Ha, her mother, and her older brothers must find a way to get along in this strange new world.
Inside Out and Back Again book cover
Inside Out and Back Again

Book Review

This book is a fast read, and like Locomotion, it is told entirely through a series of poems.  Readers are able to see the U.S. through Ha's eyes, from the peculiarities of the English language to the new holidays and food. This is an excellent book to use as a starting point for discussions with students about bullying, and explore reasons why some people distrust those who have different customs. Readers will easily be able to relate to the way Ha misses things about her old life, and to the difficulties of being a new student.

left 3D quotation mark

Mother has always wanted
an engineer, a real doctor, a poet,
and a lawyer. 

She turns to me.
You love to argue, right?

No I don't.

She brightens.

I vow to become more agreeable."
  p. 256

Topics and Themes for this book:

  • Family Relationships
  • Refugees to the U.S. from Vietnam
  • Moving to a New School
  • Bullying

Discussion Questions for this book:

The best discussion questions, of course, are generated by and contemplated by readers. These questions are designed to avoid major spoilers about the book, and to provide a starting point for teachers, parents, and student reading groups.

**Questions Coming Soon**

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