Sunday, November 27, 2011

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

In 1975, the year she turned 10, Ha and her family were forced to flee Vietnam and take refuge in the U.S.A. Author Thanhha Lai drew on her own immigration experiences to craft this moving tale. Lai's free verse format is like looking through snapshots over the course of a year. The focus on Ha's emotions is particularly effective.

Ha is a child who loves to eat. She planted a papaya tree in her yard in Saigon and watches closely for fruit: "Two green thumbs / that will grow into / orange-yellow delights / smelling of summer." Later, at the refugee camp: "Someone / should be kissed / for having the heart / to send cases of fish sauce / to Guam." Ha's family is sponsored by a man in Alabama, who brings them a paper bucket of chicken one day. They find it almost inedible, because they are used to "fresh-killed chicken / that roamed the yard / snacking on / grains and worms. / Such meat grows / tight in texture, / smelling of meadows / and tasting sweet. / I bite down on a thigh; / might as well bite down on / bread soaked in water. / Still, / I force yum-yum sounds."

The hardships are many in this National Book Award-winning story of total upheaval.

Readalike: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is another verse novel immigration story for children and tweens.

No comments: