Study Guide

Inside Out & Back Again Tradition

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Whether you realize it or not, your life has traditions in it. Maybe big holiday celebrations come to mind—and those definitely count—but you also have small traditions, whether it's pizza on Fridays or jumping up to tap the street sign on your corner every time you walk to school. And the thing about traditions is that they help us make sense of our lives, they give us some structure that feels safe and familiar. And they're also very often connected to our location.

In Inside Out and Back Again, Hà's traditions, both big and small, are connected to her homeland, Saigon, so when she and her family leave, not only do they lose their home, they lose the ability to carry on their traditions as they always have, from gazing at the papaya tree to how they celebrate Tet. It is a difficult part of their transition, but as the book ends, it seems like they're finding ways to adapt that remain meaningful to them.

Questions About Tradition

  1. What are some of Hà's family traditions? What are some ways you can tell they are important?
  2. What are Hà's personal traditions? Are they just as meaningful as the family ones?
  3. When the family flees, what traditions do they leave behind? Why?
  4. In America, how does the family build new traditions? What are some ways they transform? Are they just as meaningful as the old ways?

Chew on This

This book argues that it isn't so much what happens in traditions that matters, as it is the fact that traditions exist in the first place. So though Hà and her family can't do things in the United States the way they did them in Saigon, so long as they have traditions of some sort they'll be fine.

This book argues that it is the details of traditions that matter most, so though Hà and her family find ways to adapt some of their traditions once they reach the United States, they aren't as meaningful as they were in their original form in Saigon.

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