Thanhha Lai Wins National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Author and ADHT faculty member Thanhha Lai has won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature–the nation’s preeminent literary prize–with her first book, Inside Out & Back Again.

A moving story about the trials and tribulations of integrating into an unfamiliar world, Inside Out & Back Again  takes place during a pivotal year in a young person’s life: the age of ten. At this age, Ms. Lai’s heroine, Hà, must flee Saigon with her family at the end of the Vietnam War. Escaping to the land of hope and opportunity, they relocate to Alabama, a world completely different from all Hà knows. Longing for her papaya tree, the thrills of Saigon’s markets, the joy of its traditions and the warmth of her friends, Hà must adjust to a strange landscape, dull-tasting food, and a strange new language.

While the work is not autobiographical, Ms. Lai notes that she has many shared experiences with Hà. She, too, witnessed the end of the Vietnam War and moved to Alabama with her family in 1975. She, too, had a father missing in action and lived through the difficulties of overcoming both a language and cultural barrier in the midst of fourth grade. Her deep knowledge and understanding of the story’s roots make Inside Out & Back Again all the more  poignant.

To read an excerpt from the text, please visit:





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