Study Guide

Inside Out & Back Again Sadness

By Thanhha Lai

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In Inside Out and Back Again, Hà's father has been missing since she was a baby, she isn't allowed to finish school, she has to leave her beloved papaya tree and best friend, and she has to move to a completely foreign place where bullies and terrible food await. Thanks to the Vietnam War, Hà finds her world turned upside down (or, you know, inside out, as the case may be), which means our main girl faces sadness time and again as she says goodbye to life as she has always known it in order to make room for life in the United States.

Questions About Sadness

  1. How can we tell that Hà is sad? How does her mother show she is sad? Her brothers?
  2. Is Hà's family sad frequently, or just sometimes? At what times and in what kinds of situations do they feel sad most often?
  3. How does the story encourage us to empathize with Hà's sadness?

Chew on This

Sadness is an essential part of growing up in this book. Without experiencing sadness, growth doesn't happen.

While we see Hà navigate sadness throughout the book, the way she ultimately deals with it is by writing poetry. In other words, the book as a whole is her solution to sadness.

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