Inside Out and Back Again

by

Thanhhà Lai

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Brother Khôi Character Analysis

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 to get his allotted eggs from his hen to hatch rather than eating them. When an egg finally hatches, Brother Khôi and Hà make a pact to stay in Saigon and protect his chick and Hà’s papaya tree, though Mother ultimately convinces Brother Khôi to join the family in fleeing the country. However, Brother Khôi tries to bring his chick with him, and it dies around the time the family boards the ship. It takes two weeks for anyone to investigate the rotting smell coming from his jacket and discover the chick’s body, and Brother Khôi is distraught to lose his chick. Hà helps him feel better by performing a burial ceremony and tossing the chick into the sea in her doll’s arms, but after this, Brother Khôi seldom speaks. However, in Alabama, Brother Khôi demonstrates his love for and support of Hà by letting her ride along on his bike to and from school so she can better avoid bullies. He’s also the one to come up with the plan to protect Hà from Pink Boy’s cousin, who is going to beat up Hà. At the end of the novel, Brother Khôi insists to Mother that he wants to be a veterinarian—something Mother doesn’t fully support, as she’d rather he study to be a “real doctor.”

Brother Khôi Quotes in Inside Out and Back Again

The Inside Out and Back Again quotes below are all either spoken by Brother Khôi or refer to Brother Khôi. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper edition of Inside Out and Back Again published in 2011.
Part 1: Saigon Quotes

They’re heading to Vūng Tau,
he says,
where the rich go
to flee Vietnam
on cruise ships.

I’m glad we’ve become poor
so we can stay.

Related Characters: Kim Hà (speaker), Brother Khôi (speaker), TiTi
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Mother says
if the price of eggs
were not the price of rice,
and the price of rice
were not the price of gasoline,
and the price of gasoline
were not the price of gold,
then of course
Brother Khôi
could continue hatching eggs.

She’s sorry.

Related Characters: Mother (speaker), Brother Khôi, Kim Hà
Page Number: 16-17
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: At Sea Quotes

Brother Khôi nods
and I smile,
but I regret
not having my doll
as soon as the white bundle
sinks into the sea.

Related Characters: Kim Hà (speaker), Brother Khôi
Related Symbols: Dolls
Page Number: 86
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Inside Out and Back Again LitChart as a printable PDF.
Inside Out and Back Again PDF

Brother Khôi Character Timeline in Inside Out and Back Again

The timeline below shows where the character Brother Khôi appears in Inside Out and Back Again. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Saigon
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...startles Hà every time he shouts, “Hà, Ya” and breaks wood to imitate Bruce Lee. Brother Khôi , meanwhile, calls Hà “Mother’s Tail” because Hà sticks so close to Mother. Hà can’t... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
...Hà’s papaya tree grew from a black seed. Now, it’s twice as tall as Hà. Brother Khôi , who’s 14 and taller than Hà, spotted its first flower. Brother Vū was the... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
...as she drives away. Hà would still be standing and looking into the distance if Brother Khôi hadn’t led Hà away. He explains that TiTi’s family is traveling to Vūng Tau, where... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
Eggs. It’s March 17, and Brother Khôi is mad at Mother for taking the eggs his hen provides. The hen only lays... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...they should go. Brother Quang insists they must stay to help rebuild the country, and Brother Khôi asks what will happen if Father comes back and they’re gone. Brother Vū says they... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Sssshhhhhhh. Just before dawn on April 18, Brother Khôi shakes Hà awake and leads her to the back garden. He shows her a tiny,... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...pass, she sews more and more slowly. When she finishes the first of five bags, Brother Khôi tells her to just make three. At this, Mother grabs Father’s portrait off a shelf... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
...cowboy belt Brother Vū sewed when he still liked Johnny Cash more than Bruce Lee. Brother Khôi leaves behind the glass jars in which he raised fighting fish, and Hà leaves her... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...in front of him, lifts Hà onto his shoulders, and then presses Brother Quang and Brother Khôi forward. Hà decides she’ll never make fun of Bruce Lee again. (full context)
Part 2: At Sea
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...society. Brother Vū’s afternoon lessons are better, because he walks kids through kicks and punches. Brother Khôi monitors the bathroom lines; using the bathroom on the ship means hanging one’s bottom over... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Brother Khôi ’s Secret. Nobody can ignore now that Brother Khôi stinks. He insists on wearing a... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...his heart with a toothbrush. To Hà, those people’s pain doesn’t seem real next to Brother Khôi ’s grief over his lost chick. Hà takes Brother Khôi’s hand and leads him to... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...the girls beg Brother Vū to break more wood as she goes to sit with Brother Khôi . He doesn’t speak much anymore, but Hà is happy to sit with him. This... (full context)
Part 3: Alabama
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
...sauce, and canned corn. But today, the cowboy brings fried chicken in a paper bucket. Brother Khôi draws back, and the cowboy bites into a leg and smiles. Hà, Brother Quang, and... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
...cook or teach martial arts, not repeat his senior year. Mother simply tells him, “College.” Brother Khôi gets a bike, but Mother insists that even though Hà is the oldest kid in... (full context)
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
Quiet Inside. When Hà gets home, Brother Khôi is there, sitting silently. Hà joins him, and they shell peanuts in silence. Mother gets... (full context)
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
Chin Nod. When Hà is halfway down the block the next morning, she hears Brother Khôi ’s bicycle. He pats the upper bar of the frame and Hà climbs on sidesaddle.... (full context)
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
Wishes. Hà wishes that Brother Khôi wouldn’t stay silent about what he goes through every day, that Mother would stop hiding... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...She stays in the bathroom while everyone else goes outside. After school, Hà hides until Brother Khôi arrives on his bike. But when Hà is with Vu Lee, practicing her squat and... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...slams her door. As more people don’t open their doors, Brother Quang, Vu Lee, and Brother Khôi ’s faces turn red. But when the cowboy leads them to the house to their... (full context)
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...used to live in the jungle with tigers. Hà knows this now because she asked Brother Khôi if he hears the same things at his school. He nodded. Now that Hà understands,... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
...Lee’s students wear yellow, and some wear suits like Bruce Lee wears. Brother Quang and Brother Khôi join in, and once, Hà spots Mother smiling from inside. (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...at her. When Hà takes a wrong turn and finds herself heading away from where Brother Khôi will be, she races even faster. She can barely see through her tears. Finally, the... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...Face. Once again, boys are chasing Hà and yelling “Boo-Da” at her. Hà runs toward Brother Khôi , but she still has to listen to their taunts. But this time, Hà turns... (full context)
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
A Plan. Hà doesn’t even have to tell Brother Khôi about the threat, since he heard that Hà’s face “is to be flattened / flatter”... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...fast as she can. She’s all alone—the boys must have followed Pem. Hà stops where Brother Khôi told her to wait, but Brother Khôi isn’t there. Suddenly, Hà sees Pink Boy racing... (full context)
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
...helmet off, it turns out to be Vu Lee. Pink Boy hurries away just as Brother Khôi runs up pushing his bike, which has a flat tire. At Vu Lee’s signal, Hà... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
...The cowboy gives Mother catfish, Brother Quang money to attend night college, Vu Lee jerky, Brother Khoi two fighting fish, and Hà a new coat. MiSSSisss WaSShington gives a gong and jasmine... (full context)
Part 4: From Now On
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...have escaped to France and has a new family—he might not remember his old family. Brother Khôi wonders if Father joined a monastery in Tibet. Hà doesn’t have any exciting what-ifs, but... (full context)
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
...go to cooking school in San Francisco, where Bruce Lee once lived—this makes Mother sigh. Brother Khôi insists he’ll be an animal doctor. Mother stops herself from saying something and nods. She’s... (full context)
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
...gong to sound. Hà prays for Father and for Mother, Brother Quang, Vu Lee, and Brother Khôi to be happy and successful. When she opens her eyes, the others are still praying.... (full context)