Book Review: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai


I read this book for my Literature & Media for Children class. I am using it for the Women Challenge, Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, and Book Club Friday.

Summary from Goodreads: 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, Ha 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. Ha and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Ha 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.

My review for my class: This beautifully written novel chronicles a year in the life of Kim Ha. It is 1975 and Ha is only ten years old when she escapes Vietnam with her family, just before the fall of Saigon, and moves to America in search of a better life. There she encounters both kindness, in the form of a neighbor who tutors her daily, and cruelty, from a classmate she calls “Pink Boy” who ridicules her for being different. Inside Out & Back Again is both funny and touching, and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at Ha’s attempts to learn the grammatical rules of English, which are undoubtedly illogical and frustrating. Based on the experiences of author Thanhha Lai, this book provides an honest look at what it’s like to be an immigrant through poetic journal entries.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars! Loved it.




  1. This one is new to me, but it definitely sounds like the type I’d enjoy. I love historical fiction, especially when it takes place in a time a location new to me. And since I have read much about Vietnam or the Vietnam War era, it intrigues me. Definitely will have to keep my eyes out for it!

  2. Pingback: Books Read in 2013 | I Like Big Books

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