Suburban Mosaic

Inside Out & Back Again

by Thanhha Lai

Grades 3 – 5

Discussion Questions
Inside Out and Back Again

  1. Why and how does Ha’s family escape Vietnam?
  2. Sometimes Hà is angry about being a girl. Why does she make sure to tap her big toe on the floor before her brothers wake up on the morning of the new year? When she thinks about that moment a year later, what does she say?
  3. On the ship, Hà touches the sailor’s hairy arm and Mother slaps her hand away (p. 95). Why does Hà take a hair? How is her behavior on the ship similar to or different from that of the kids at school in Alabama when they notice Hà’s features?
  4. Hà describes her American town as “clean, quiet loneliness”(p. 122). How is life in Alabama different from Saigon? How is she treated in Alabama? Are there any similarities? What does she miss most about Vietnam?
  5. Why do you think the cowboy wanted to be a sponsor? Who is Ms. Washington and why might she have volunteered to be a teacher for Hà?
  6. Why would sponsors prefer applications that say “Christians”(p. 108)? Do you agree with Hà’s mother that “all beliefs are pretty much the same” (p. 108)? Do you think she did the right thing by saying that the family is Christian?