Do you remember the last time you stayed up late into the night because you couldn't put a book down? Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai was a book a colleague had put into my hands saying "I think you will like this", which is always an interesting challenge. It sat in a pile of books to be read near my night table for a few weeks. I picked up right before bed and ended up reading in one sitting into the late hours of the night. Late hours for a teacher, anyway.
Inside Out and Back Again is a book inspired by the author's experience of fleeing Vietnam after the war and resettling in Alabama. It is written in verse that is delicate and bold at the same time.
Hà is a young girl who loves Vietnam and is reluctant to leave. She is confused and angered by her new life and America. Young Hà describes her process of learning English with such disdain! When describing the rules of plurals and adding "s" to the end of a noun, Hà states "Whoever invented English must have loved snakes," (118). There are several poems that document Hà's linguistic and cultural transitions that may illuminate what some of our own students are wrestling with, particularly while they are experiencing their "silent period".
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a needed text for your culturally responsive library. Students needs to see themselves in the texts they read. Identity texts that reflect the diversity of our students' experiences, help facilitate a multilingual identity that is additive rather than subtractive.
Finally, Harper Collins offers a discussion guide on their website.
I am an EAL specialist and educational consultant that is dedicated to building a more transformative educational landscape that honors linguistic diversity and challenges societal paradigms.