Questions for Discussion



  • Why do you think it took almost the entire book for “Vu Lee” to come and stand up for his little sister?
  • Why do you think Ha constantly runs from the bullies and never tries to stand up for herself? What kind of message was the author trying to give the reader in doing this?
  • Why do you think Miss Washington doesn’t tell Ha’s mom about her being bullied in school?

Author Questions


  • Why do you think the author named the book Inside Out & Back Again?
  • Why do you think the author decides to begin and end the novel with the holiday, Tet? What does it say about the message or theme of the book?
  • Throughout the novel, Ha only occasionally tells the reader the character’s name, and for other characters she gives a nickname based on their appearance like “Our Cowboy” or “Pink Boy,” why do you think the author chose for her to do this? What kind of message does this send to the reader about Ha’s character?
  • Inside Out & Back Again is written by Thannha Lai based on her own life, why do you think the author chose to write about a fictional life rather than her own?

General Questions


  • Ha states at the end, “I truly learn / to fly-kick, / not to kick anyone / so much as / to fly.” What do you think she means by learning to fly? Do you think it means she learned to escape her bullies, to adjust to America, etc.?
  • Ha struggles with learning English throughout the novel, why do you think the author included frustrations with the language? Do you think this applies to one of the themes of the text?
  • Why does Ha miss her papaya tree so much? What do you think it symbolizes?
  • Ha’s mother says, “People share when they know / they have escaped hunger. / Shouldn’t people share / because there is hunger?” Do you think this is true for people around the world or just true for Ha’s situation?



  • Do we all assimilate to new situations the same way Ha reacts to moving to America?
  • Does Ha’s character change and assimilate to America’s culture for good in the end?
  • Do you think the rest of Ha’s family had just as much trouble assimilating to American culture as Ha does?
  • ow does the author show Ha’s adaptation to American culture throughout the novel?



Inside Out and Back Again’s Homepage

Sabrina Pierce ’20

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