For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. 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 . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This was such a quick read! One, it’s written in verse instead of prose. Two, it was a wonderful read so I zipped through it in a day. I originally ordered this book from Amazon because I was looking for a good nonfiction novel to read with my 7th graders this years. And I love the fact that it’s written in verse. I don’t think many of my kiddos have read any books written in verse so it will be good to expose them to that too. And the book is full of symbolism and figurative language to touch on poetry as well. As well as tie in some history aspects of the times (1960-1970’s) and how Communism impacted the whole world.
The story of Ha is based on the author’s life in Saigon in the beginning and then later it’s about how she, her mom, and brothers take refuge in the United States to get away from the Communism in Vietnam. They are hosted by a family in Alabama so that one of her brothers can work as an apprentice car mechanic for the man of the house.
There, Ha and her brothers must adjust to American culture and have to deal with their peers bullying them daily. The author explains it later in the book, that when she moved to Alabama it took her years to realize that she and her family represented what all of these kids were seeing on their TV screens at home and that they had never actually seen Vietnamese people in rural Alabama before. So if the kids were being mean to her she finally realized they were just copying what they were hearing and seeing at home from their parents and from the American news anchors.
I can’t imagine what that kind of culture shock would be like. Ha talks about her memories in Saigon, her friends, the plant life, the food, the landscape and how much she misses all of these things. From reading the book and have never been to Vietnam, they sound sooooooooo different. I cannot imagine. It almost sounds like they moved to a different planet.
I don’t read too much nonfiction so I was really glad I liked it! I think one of the last nonfiction books I read was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand about the World War II pilot and his crew members that survived on a raft for months. And I actually read that one with my kiddos and they liked it so much that we started an after school book club where we finished the YA adaption of the book and watched certain parts of the movie.
I’m hoping Inside Out & Back Again will interest them as much! And I think it would be great as a film if they ever decide to adapt it! I’d definitely go see it.