Inside Out and Back Again


Thanhhà Lai

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Inside Out and Back Again Characters

Kim Hà

The protagonist of the novel, Hà is a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl. She lives with Mother and her three older brothers, Brother Quang, Brother Vū, and Brother Khôi, on the outskirts of Saigon… read analysis of Kim Hà


Mother is a single mother to , Brother Khôi, Brother Vū, and Brother Quang. She’s married, but Father has been missing in action for the last nine years, and Mother doesn’t… read analysis of Mother

Brother Quang

Brother Quang, ’s oldest brother, is a 21-year-old engineering student in Saigon. Since he began attending college, Brother Quang has gotten increasingly pretentious. He’s very proud of being South Vietnamese, so he initially opposes… read analysis of Brother Quang

Brother Vū/Vu Lee

Eighteen-year-old Brother Vū is ’s second-oldest brother. He’s tall, muscular, and adores Bruce Lee, so he studies martial arts and often impresses girls by karate-chopping wood or bricks in half. Hà finds Brother Vū… read analysis of Brother Vū/Vu Lee

Brother Khôi

Fourteen-year-old Brother Khôi is ’s third-oldest brother. He’s an animal lover and her most sensitive, “agreeable” brother. He’s raised fighting fish in the past, and in the novel’s present in Vietnam, he’s trying desperately… read analysis of Brother Khôi
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, Brother Quang, Brother Vū, and Brother Khôi’s father never appears in person in the novel, as he’s been missing in action for the last nine years. He was a member… read analysis of Father

MiSSSisss WaSShington

MiSSSisss WaSShington is ’s family’s neighbor in Alabama, and since she’s a retired teacher, she volunteers to tutor Hà and her brothers after school. She’s kind, open, and encouraging to Hà as she helps… read analysis of MiSSSisss WaSShington

The Cowboy

The cowboy is ’s family’s sponsor when they arrive in the U.S. Though his name is actually Mr. Johnston, Hà never calls him this and only refers to him as her family’s cowboy. She… read analysis of The Cowboy

The Cowboy’s Wife

The cowboy’s wife is a bigoted woman: when and her family initially move in with the cowboy and his wife, she insists that her guests live in the basement and don’t go outside—she… read analysis of The Cowboy’s Wife

MiSSS SScott

MiSSS SScott is ’s fourth-grade teacher in Alabama. Hà dislikes MiSSS SScott from the start, as MiSSS SScott doesn’t seem impressed that Hà so carefully pronounces the s sounds in the teacher’s name—and she… read analysis of MiSSS SScott

Pink Boy

The antagonist of the novel, Pink Boy is a boy in ’s class. She never learns his real name. He has pink skin and white hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows, and he’s cruel to Hà… read analysis of Pink Boy


Pem is one of ’s first two friends in Alabama. Though she introduces herself as Pam, Hà hears “Pem,” and so calls her friend Pem in her narration. She’s in Hà’s class and has… read analysis of Pem/Pam


SSsì-Ti-Vân is one of ’s first friends in Alabama. His name is Steven, but to Hà, the name sounds like SSsì-Ti-Vân, so this is what she calls him in her narration going forward. He… read analysis of SSsì-Ti-Vân/Steven

President Thieu

President Thieu is the president of South Vietnam. Mother dislikes him and seems to distrust him; she doesn’t think any of his displays of emotion are genuine, and when he steps down in the weeks… read analysis of President Thieu

Uncle Son

Uncle Son isn’t and her brothers’ blood uncle; rather, he was in the same navy class as Father and was Father’s best friend. He’s short and “smiley.” He’s remained close with Mother since Father’s… read analysis of Uncle Son

The Commander

The commander is the captain of the navy ship that and her family board to leave South Vietnam. Hà likes and respects the commander, which she realizes is because when he’s in his navy… read analysis of The Commander


TiTi is ’s best friend in Saigon. She has beautiful long hair that Hà envies, and her family is wealthier than Hà’s—when TiTi’s family flees Saigon, they go to a port city where rich… read analysis of TiTi
Minor Characters
Miss Xinh
Miss Xinh is ’s fourth-grade teacher in Saigon. When teaching current events gets too sad and frightening, Miss Xinh instead decides to use class time to speak about happy things.
Tram is the tiny, shy girl who shares ’s desk at school in Vietnam. Hà resents Tram because she’s the teacher’s pet and is a tattletale. Mother is friends with Tram’s mother, so news that Hà has been pinching or bullying Tram always makes it back to Mother.