Book Review: Inside Out & Back Again
By: Thanhha Lai
Narrated By: Doan Ly
Published By: Recorded Books
Publication Date: February 2011
Page Count: 208
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction
On the Story & Writing:
I picked this audiobook up at the library because I have always been interested in the Vietnam War era. Inside Out & Back Again intrigued me because it was from the perspective of a South Vietnamese refugee. Much of my experience reading about this time period has been with nonfiction that was heavily focused on the experiences of the American military. I have read little about the experiences of the Vietnamese civilians.
I learned a lot reading this book about the experiences of the refugees. The process of fleeing South Vietnam before the Communists took over was a lot more complex than I had always assumed. Hà is only ten when her family must leave their home to escape to safety and freedom in the United States. The trip to the US takes quite a bit of time and the conditions on the ship are less than ideal.
In addition to the voyage, I also learned more about the process of allowing refugees to enter the United States. The first phase is life in the tent city until a sponsor can be found. Hà and her family are sponsored by a man from Alabama. This allows them to begin working on obtaining citizenship. The way the Vietnamese refugees were treated by Americans was heartbreaking. This novel again shines a spotlight on racial discrimination.
I loved this novel for giving a voice to those who have not had their story told. In fact, I will be using this novel in my classroom in the near future. It will allow me to have discussions with my students about social justice issues and help them better understand the Vietnam era.
On the Audio:
I really enjoyed the cadence of the narrator's voice. She did a nice job of packing emotions into her portrayal of Hà. I also think she did a nice job of giving a youthful tone to the novel.
One Last Gripe: There were some elements that seemed disjointed and hard to follow. Since this is a verse novel, I blame this feeling on the fact that I was listening to the book rather than reading it myself.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I enjoyed seeing history from a perspective that was different from other things I have read in the past.
First Sentence: to the tile floor first.
Favorite Character: Hà
Least Favorite Character: the school bully
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.