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SEL with ALM: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Posted by Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO on Sep 11, 2022 6:53:00 PM
Anna-Lisa Mackey, PATHS Program CEO

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai is a great book for grade 7 as it connects to many of the themes in Emozi® Middle School such as addressing stereotypes and overcoming fears. The book was awarded the National Book Award for Young People's Literature as well as the Newbery Award. The SEL themes that can be drawn out of the novel are overcoming challenges, managing change, and adapting to new situations, as well as racism and dealing with bullies. 


This book review takes us back to Vietnam in 1975. It's about a 10-year-old girl named Hà, who lives in Saigon. When the Vietnam war reaches her doorstep, she and her family are forced to flee to America. Once settled in Alabama, Hà struggles to learn English and find her place in a neighborhood full of strangers and deal with schoolyard bullies. This book is written in a prose poetry style and is inspired by the author's own childhood experience as a refugee when her family fled Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon. The author expertly weaves the 121 poems between fact and fiction, while capturing a young girl's struggles to adapt and eventually thrive in her new life. 

Visit this website for more information on the Vietnamese refugee crisis after the fall of Saigon.

Socratic Seminar Questions

"Everyone must smile no matter how we feel."

  • Have you ever felt like you had to pretend to feel a certain way, even if you didn't?
    • Was that hard?
    • How did you feel about that?

"But last night I pouted when Mother insisted one of my brothers must rise first this morning to bless our house because only male feet can bring luck. An old, angry know expanded in my throat."

  • Have you ever felt something was unfair to you because of who you are?
  • What sorts of things seem unfair to you?
    • How did you feel about it?

"I can't make my brothers go live elsewhere, but I can hide their sandals."

  • Why does Hà want to hide her brothers' sandals?
  • How does she feel about her brothers?
  • For those of you who have siblings, do you always get along?
    • Why?

"Mother tells me, they tease you because they adore you."

  • Do you think this is the real reason that Hà's brothers tease her?
  • Why do you think they tease her?
  • Is it OK to tease people that you like?

"Brother Quang is oldest, twenty-one and studying engineering.

  • Who knows what he will notice before me?
  • What is Hà's concerned about here?
  • What is she feeling?

Emozi Grade 7 lesson connections

Unit 2alm_insideoutandbackagain

  • Lesson 1: Showing Respect
  • Lesson 2: Body Language
  • Lesson 3: Advocacy
  • Lesson 4: Stereotypes and Implicit Bias
  • Lesson 5: Fear
  • Lesson 6: Listening Skills
  • Lesson 7: Overcoming Obstacles
  • Lesson 8: Feedback
  • Lesson 9: Bullying
  • Lesson 10: Perspective
  • Lesson 11: Cultural Competency
  • Lesson 12: Empathy

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Topics: Social and emotional learning, middle school, Emozi® Middle School, SEL Implementation, cultural competence, Anna-Lisa Mackey, M.Ed., SEL and Literature, SEL with ALM