Friday, February 13, 2015

Book Club! Inside Out and Back Again

Still - after five years plus - one of our most favorite days of the month.  This month's selection, Inside Out and Back Again, was written in semi-autobiographical prose by Thanhha Lai. 

We talked a lot about the content, which is about the immigration experience of a Vietnamese family who came to the United States during the Vietnam/American war and resettled in Alabama.  Our discussion was marvelously fruitful, with the kids bringing up questions of who the protagonist and antagonist were and with various thoughts about what point in the book constituted the climax. 

We also talked a lot about the power and limitations of prose.  So much emotion is captured in fewer words, carefully chosen, but the kids also felt strongly that the book ended too suddenly, without a solid conclusion.  A weakness of the style or part of its power? Great discussion pondering both.

In the end, we agreed that the author's message is one of resilience - sadness, loss, and change, difficulty and fear, but excitement and goodness, adventure, strength, and abiding love within family and community that is both enriched by and yet goes beyond individual culture.  An excellent and memorable book, one that enriches the readers.

Three scenes from the book, organized by the girls:  1)  Bullying in the school in Alabama; 2) the family's Alabama sponsor/"cowboy" and his mean wife; the boat crowded with refugees.  All is covered by a scarf I bought when I was in Vietnam and a pillow I bought from our Hmong guide in Northern Vietnam.

Papaya is the main character's symbol; we ate it and also feasted on other Vietnamese dishes - yum!

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