In Inside Out and Back Again,Hà's family and culture have pretty specific ideas about the roles women and girls play. And the thing is, that these ideas will probably seem pretty familiar—if a little dated—to anybody who's growing up in the United States today. Cooking, sewing, looking nice, and all that stereotypically female stuff is what's expected of Hà and Mother. Mother leads the family, though, and Hà eventually finds the strength to stand up to her bully, so though we see women navigating rigid expectations, we also see them as powerful and capable in this book.
In short, you go, girls.
Questions About Women and Femininity
What gender roles are shown in this book? Can we learn about how Vietnamese culture thinks about femininity by reading only one book? Explain your reasoning.
Do we see traditional displays of femininity in Hà's character? In her mother's?
What do we learn about women from Hà's family structure? How about from the other women in the book, like Mrs. Washington?
Chew on This
Women in Inside Out and Back Again seem to have the traditional western cultural roles, cook, seamstress, doing domestic work.
Hà is anything but a stereotypical girly girl: She is smart, abrasive, mischievous, athletic, and cares little about what she looks like.