Study Guide

Inside Out & Back Again Food

By Thanhha Lai

Food

Since Inside Out and Back Again goes from Saigon to Alabama, differences between the two main settings abound, but one of the main ones has to do with food. Whether lamenting the lack of papayas (or rejecting the dried out version she's given in the States), or unable to choke down industrial American fast food (we're looking at you, KFC), food is an obvious difference between their old home and their new one for Hà and her family.

Though it's easy to forget in our daily lives, food is very much tied to culture, and culture can be a source of comfort and familiarity for us, particularly in trying times. With this in mind, we can recognize that it isn't just a matter of not having familiar food around for Hà—it's about feeling like she's home.

Questions About Food

  1. How does food play a role in Hà's family when they're in Saigon?
  2. What are the major differences between the food in Saigon and the food in America?
  3. What are some ways Hà's family copes with the differences in food choices? How does it turn out for them? 
  4. Does your family have traditions involving food? How are they the same or different from Hà's family?

Chew on This

This book argues that food doesn't just sustain us physically, but also emotionally by providing familiarity through connection to our culture.

The food Hà's family uses in traditions like Tet just has to be adjusted for life in the United States; the traditions themselves are just as strong as ever, though.

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