Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Dates Read: June 20-27, 2018
Synopsis: A young Vietnamese girl and her family escape their war-torn country and leave for Alabama in the U.S., discovering a whole new life and the strength they must find within themselves.
Review: Reading this was a byproduct of working in a library, and I’m so glad for that because this is the kind of book that’s good to just serendipitously fall upon. It will find you when you don’t mean to find it. It was definitely tough to read, though. To get an immigrant/refugee story from the POV of a child may be more moving than any other. I wish more people would read this book, especially in today’s political climate.
The fact that it’s written in verse makes it even more poignant because poetry has the power to stick in your head more easily than prose, like a song lyric. It’s more haunting that way and can prick you like a pin. We get little vignettes rather than a seamless plot, which is similar to the way Americans are likely to view immigrants. We don’t often see the whole picture; rather, we are stuck with snippets and create our own biased versions of the whole picture in our heads.
- But last night I pouted / when Mother insisted / one of my brothers / must rise first / this morning / to bless our house / because only male feet / can bring luck. // An old, angry knot / expanded in my throat. // I decided / to wake before dawn / and tap my big toe / to the tile floor / first. // Not even Mother, sleeping beside me, knew. (Loc 33)
- People share / when they know / they have escaped hunger. // Shouldn’t people share because there is hunger? (Loc 990)
- On one side of the bright, noisy room, light skin. / Other side, / dark skin. // Both laughing, chewing, / as if it never occurred to them / someone medium / would show up. (Loc 1497)
- Mostly / I wish / I were / still / smart. (Loc 1651)
- Oh, my daughter, / at times you have to fight, but preferably / not with your fists. (Loc 2253)
- This year I hope / I truly learn / to fly-kick, / not to kick anyone / so much as / to fly. (Loc 2673)