Thanhha was born in war-torn Vietnam in 1965 (The Year of the Snake), the youngest of nine children. In 1975, upon North Vietnam winning the war, her family was shipped to Alabama, United States, as refugees.
In the United States, life was more complicated - Thanhha didn't speak English, had never tasted a hot dog, and she was the first real-life Asian her classmates had seen. Thanhha received a degree in journalism from University of Texas, Austin.
She covered the cops beat at The Orange County Register in California for two years before obtaining an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. Now she lives in New York City, teaching, running, biking, reading, writing, and chasing around a four-year-old. Inside Out and Back Again is Thanhha Lai's first novel.
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Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and a 2012 Newbery Honor Book, this stunning and engaging verse novel will captivate readers of all ages.
Watch Thanhha Lai's acceptance speech for the National Book Prize: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSe12cy7UT8
Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
2012 Newbery Honor Book
Praise for debut novel Inside Out and Back Again:
‘Open this book, read it slowly to savour the delicious language. This is a book that asks the reader to be careful, to pay attention, to sigh at the end.’ Kathi Appelt, bestselling author of Newbery Honor Book The Underneath
‘Based in Lai’s personal experience, this first novel captures a child–refugee’s struggle with rare honesty. Written in accessible, short free-verse poems, Hà’s immediate narrative describes her mistakes — both humorous and heartbreaking; and readers will be moved by Hà’s sorrow as they recognize the anguish of being the outcast.’ Booklist
‘The taut portrayal of Hà’s emotional life is especially poignant as she cycles from feeling smart in Vietnam to struggling in the States, and finally regains academic and social confidence. An incisive portrait of human resilience.’ Publishers Weekly
‘An enlightening, poignant and unexpectedly funny novel in verse. In her not-to-be-missed debut, Lai evokes a distinct time and place and presents a complex, realistic heroine whom readers will recognize, even if they haven’t found themselves in a strange new country.’ Kirkus Reviews
‘Lai’s spare language captures the sensory disorientation of changing cultures as well as a refugee’s complex emotions and kaleidoscopic loyalties.’ The Horn Book
‘Ha’s voice is full of humour and hope.’ School Library Journal