Inside Out and Back Again


Thanhhà Lai

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Themes and Colors
War, Childhood, and Maturity Theme Icon
Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging Theme Icon
Family and Grief Theme Icon
Culture, Food, and Tradition Theme Icon
Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Inside Out and Back Again, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

War, Childhood, and Maturity

Inside Out and Back Again is 10-year-old ’s story of escaping her home country of Vietnam during the Fall of Saigon in 1975. At this time, Vietnam was divided in two, the communist North Vietnam and the Western-aligned South Vietnam, where Hà and her family live. The Fall of Saigon refers to the North’s invasion and capture of South Vietnam, and the unification of the two entities into a single country. For Hà and…

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Immigration, Culture Shock, and Belonging

Inside Out and Back Again presents immigrating to a new country as simultaneously traumatizing and beneficial. For and her family, fleeing their home in South Vietnam is a necessity: Father fought for South Vietnam and is currently missing in action, which means that when the Communist North eventually reaches Saigon with its armies, Hà’s family will be at risk of being killed. Mother decides to move the family to the United States after someone…

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Family and Grief

Ten-year-old is the youngest child in a close-knit family. She has three older brothers, Brother Khôi, Brother Vū, and Brother Quang, and they all adore Mother. Father, however, has been missing in action for the last nine years, and nobody knows if he’s deceased, captured, or living at his ancestral home in North Vietnam (Hà and the rest of her family live in South Vietnam, which has a closed…

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Culture, Food, and Tradition

Ten-year-old is Vietnamese, and she shares Vietnamese culture and cuisine with the reader through her narration. For instance, she describes in detail how ripe papaya fresh off the tree tastes, how the ceremonial dish bánh chung is shaped into a square and steamed in banana leaves, and how her brothers are supposed to bless their house on Tet, the lunar new year. Hà also finds comfort in her various rituals, such as spinning Mother

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Bullying, Racism, and Self-Doubt

isn’t quite the top student in her class in South Vietnam, but she’s close—she loves feeling smart and learning challenging things in school. But when Hà’s family moves from South Vietnam to Alabama during the Fall of Saigon, Hà has to face the difficult prospect of starting in a brand-new school in a country where she doesn’t yet speak English. For weeks, this is demoralizing and even frightening: Hà is the victim of…

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