Inside Out and Back Again Summary & Study Guide

Thanhha Lai
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Inside Out and Back Again Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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"Inside Out & Back Again" by Thanhha Lai is a heartrending book of poetry about a young Vietnamese refugee's experiences as she flees to American at the end of the Vietnam war. As the war rages, Ha and her family decide to flee their home in order to ensure their survival, but they have no clue what challenges they will face as their journey begins. "Inside Out & Back Again" is a touching tale of Ha's struggles as she leaves the only home she has ever known, and learns to adjust to a new country and a new language.

In Part 1: Saigon, Ha and her family celebrate Tet 1975 as the war nears their home. Ha tends her papaya tree, excited for the fruit to blossom, and she is ecstatic as fruit begins to appear. Mother chants for Father's safe return on the ninth anniversary of his disappearance. On her birthday, Ha wishes for Father to return. Shortly after the presidential palace is bombed, Mother and Ha attend the president's speech for war wives in order to get food at the end. Mother feels guilty that their poverty inhibits her children's enjoyment of life. After school closes a month early because of the war, Father's best friend, Uncle Son, begins planning to escape Vietnam through Ha's house to the port on navy ships, urging Mother to accompany his family. While Ha's family considers fleeing Vietnam, Mother decides that her children deserve to live in a place where they will not always be hungry. The war draws even closer to home, and the president resigns. Ha's family packs to flee, leaving much behind, and Ha laments leaving her papaya tree. Her family boards a navy ship, acquiring two mats for the five of them to share. Soon after they leave the port, a pilot joins them to announce the Communists overtook the presidential palace; "Saigon is gone" (page 69).

In Part 2: At Sea, the refugees are put on rations on the ship, and they study English. Rations are cut when the ship loses an engine because, while taking the river route allowed them to evade the bombs, they also missed the rescue ships. An American ship finally rescues them and takes them to a tent city in Guam where Mother decides to relocate to America. At another tent city in Florida, Ha's family is sponsored by the owner of a car dealership, Mr. Johnston, and they move to Alabama.

In Part 3: Alabama, Mother insists her children focus on learning English as they get accustomed to American culture. After Mr. Johnston rents a house for Ha's family, Mother writes to Father's brother in North Vietnam for word of her husband. Mother begins working in a sewing factory, Quang works as a mechanic, and the others attend school. Because Ha's peers taunt her, Vu Lee begins training Ha in martial arts. The neighbors are mean to Ha's family, except for Miss Washington who tutors Ha and her brothers, but the neighbors are friendlier after Ha's family is baptized. Ha makes two friends, Pam and Steven, but she still misses Saigon. When Pink Boy continues to tease Ha after a discussion with the principal, Ha mocks him back, so he convinces his cousin to beat her up. Luckily, Vu Lee and Khoi rescue her. Ha celebrates Christmas with her family and receives a new doll from Pam.

In Part 4: From Now On, Ha's uncle finally responds to Mother, but they learn nothing new. Ha is teased for wearing a nightgown to school as a dress, but when she pretends that she does not care, no one else cares. After Mother loses her amethyst ring from Father, Mother announces that Father is truly gone, so Ha's family has a ceremony for him. Mother is proud as her sons decide what they will study in college, and Ha's family celebrates Tet, looking forward to their luck starting over. In the Author's Note, Thanhha Lai indicates that Ha's story is based on her own experiences as a Vietnamese refugee.

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This section contains 677 words
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