Study Guide

Inside Out & Back Again Coming-of-Age

By Thanhha Lai

Coming-of-Age

The year that Inside Out and Back Again takes place in is a big one for Hà. She turns ten right as the book opens, but while double-digits are always a landmark moment, her growing-up process is about to be fast-tracked by the Vietnam War. Once her family decides to flee Saigon, Hà is forced to leave everything she's ever known behind, in favor of building a new life in the United States, a place she's never been before. It's a doozy of a transition, and forces Hà to mature a lot over a relatively short period of time.

We're not saying she's an adult or anything by the time the book ends—she's only turning eleven, after all—but we are definitely saying that she has grown up a lot from the girl who spent her time thinking about papayas when the story begins.

Questions About Coming-of-Age

  1. What does Hà learn about her brothers by the end of the book? 
  2. In what ways do you notice that Hà grows up? 
  3. What do other characters realize about Hà? What are some of the most grown-up moments that Hà has in relation to other characters in the book?

Chew on This

Hà is still immature at the end of the book, otherwise she wouldn't wish to learn to fly, which is a childish wish.

Hà's wish to learn to fly is a mark of maturity because it is a metaphor for spreading her wings and continuing to come into her own.

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