Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Review: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
This book was a 2012 Newberry Honor book. After reading it, I can say it deserved it. This is the story of 10 year old Hà and her family- they flee Saigon shortly before the fall of Saigon (1975) and eventually end up in Alabama. This novel is written in verse and in quite a few other books, it seems like a gimmick. Like something the author thinks will make the book more likely to seem deep, insightful, and maybe more likely to be taught in school during a poetry unit. However, this seems to work well in verse- the author manages to make the characters seem real and I especially liked the section set in Vietnam. It felt like you were there and the author managed to capture the beauty- cultural and otherwise- that makes you understand the wistfulness immigrants have for their homeland. I especially loved the description of how bành cuón is made.
Bành cuón: http://www.theravenouscouple.com/2010/01/banh-cuon-vietnamese-steam-rice-rolls.html
The author also does a good job in showing how difficult it is to be an immigrant- learning English in part. Although the author goes on a bit about how difficult it is to learn articles (a, an, the) as an Asian- since they don't really exist. I don't really get why that's true in this case as this family had members fluent in French- and in French they do have articles and those articles are masculine (le) and feminine(la). But she does have a cute thing about trying to translate the sentence, "Jane sees Spot run" using the dictionary. _____(blank since Jane is not listed) eyeballs (sees) stain (Spot) move (run). But, I think the worst part of the author's story about coming to America is dealing with the discrimination- which must have been a lot worse in 1970's Alabama than in 1970's Hawaii. This is a book I recommend and plan to have my kids read when they are old enough.
Rating: 4 stars
Author's page at Harper Collins