The Bar Loves Thanhha Lai

So Jules has got me reading Inside Out & Back Again by author Thanhha Lai, and though I've only started it, I'm already in love.  For one, female author.  Two, author of color.  Three, main character is a ten-year-old shero.

And four, the book written entirely in first-person poetic verse, yet each page or so is dated like a diary.

*nods*  Madam Lai's got style.

The story is said to take place over a year, following the fall of Saigon and the protagonist's relocation to the United States.

The reviews speak of the character's humor, which is apparent right away.  Kim Ha ("Golden River") is a rebellious preteen living in a deeply traditional, male-dominated era.  She's told girls can't do this and girls can't do that, and she's not trying to hear any of it.

"...[Last] night I pouted
when Mother insisted
one of my brothers
must rise first
this morning
to bless our house
because only male feet
can bring luck.

An old, angry knot
expanded in my throat.

I decided
to wake before dawn
and tap my big toe
to the tile floor

not even Mother
sleeping beside me, knew."

In addition to her rebellious spirit, Ha is clever and spunky.  Because the war is raising the cost on everything, she has to find new ways to enjoy even the simplest pleasures.  This is where her sense of humor made me laugh aloud.

"...Mother trusts me
to shop at the open market.

Last September
she would give me
fifty dong
to buy one hundred grams of pork,
a bushel of water spinach,
five cubes of tofu.

But I told no one
I was buying
ninety-nine grams of pork,
seven-eights of a bushel of spinach.
four and three-quarter cubes of tofu.
Merchants frowned at
Mother's strange instructions

The money saved
a pouch toasted coconut,
one sugary fried dough,
two crunchy mung bean cookies."

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of this book.  I expect there will be several more instances where I find myself laughing aloud...and of course, maybe shedding a tear or two along the way.

Thanhha Lai


  1. Yay, you like it for the same reason I do.

    1. *nods* We notice the same things.


This blog is strictly moderated. Everyone is now able to comment again, however, all Anonymous posts will be immediately deleted. Comments on posts more than 30 days old are generally dismissed, so try to stay current with the conversations.