This month, as part of the Novels In Verse reading challenge, hosted by Amanda at Born Bookish, I read Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai and Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall. I didn’t realize it when I picked these two books out, but they had a lot in common. To start, look at the covers:
I must admit, it was the beautiful cover that first attracted me to Thanha Lai’s book. You know how I love trees ;) Then when I learned that it was written in verse, well, there was no question. I had to read it right away.
Although classified as fiction, both of these books are based on the real experiences of the authors.
Inside Out & Back Again
"No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.
For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.
But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.
This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next."
Inside Out & Back Again is beautifully told in free verse. Through the seamless flow of poems, we experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of Ha's journey as she, her mother, and her three brothers travel from Vietnam to America. Ha's fears, her curiosity, her guilt, her temper and her bond with her family, all make for a compelling tale and we hope beyond reasonable hope, right along with Ha and her family, that in the end they will be reunited with her father, who has been missing in action for years.
Under the Mesquite
"When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don't always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami's life.
While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. As Lupita struggles to keep the family afloat, she takes refuge in the shade of a mesquite tree, where she escapes the chaos at home to write. Forced to face her limitations in the midst of overwhelming changes and losses, Lupita rediscovers her voice and finds healing in the power of words.
Told with honest emotion in evocative free verse, Lupita's journey toward hope is captured in moments that are alternately warm and poignant. Under the Mesquite is an empowering story about testing family bonds and the strength of a young woman navigating pain and hardship with surprising resilience."
In Under the Mesquite, Lupita's story is told in rich, picturesque language. The author carries us, along with Lupita and her family to homes on both sides of the United States-Mexican border. And she makes us feel at home there too, successfully incorporating Spanish words and glimpses of Latino experiences.