Getting the Gist by Natalie Corral 8th Grade Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

1975: Year of the Cat ( February 11 )

Today ( February 11, first day in the lunar calandar ) is Tet. Tet is a holiday that is like New Year's but instead it is like everyones 2nd birthday. All the people celebrate by eating sugary lotus seeds and other sweet treats and delicious foods. And, in every household, the male feet have to rise first in the morning to bless the house because only male feet bring good luck

Inside Out ( February 12 )

A fortune teller tells Mother that their lives will twist inside out. Ha wishes that it means that the soldiers will stop coming and Mother will no longer have to hide the kids. Ha also heard at school that this years banh chung will be covered in blood.

Kim Ha ( Everyday )

Ha's brothers love to make fun of her. Brother Quang likes to call her Ha Ma ( River Horse ).Brother Vu scares her by saying Ha Ya( in imitation of Bruce Lee).And Brother Khoi calls her Mother's tail because she's always three steps from Mother. Mother keeps telling Ha to ignore her brothers. She then told Ha that her and Ha's father named her Kim Ha after the Golden (Kim) River (Ha) where they once strolled in the evenings. Mother tells Ha that the brothers tease her because they love her but Ha doesn't believe it. Yet she still loves her and will give Mother her first papaya.

Papaya Tree ( Mid-February )

Ha had just thrown a papaya seed into the yard not caring what happens to it and later it became a plant. She had started growing it hoping for some papaya. Ha cannot see the top of the plant, because she is too short but each of her brothers can. Ha will wake up early every morning so that she will be the first to see it ripen.

Titi Waves Good-bye ( Early March )

Ha's friend Titi is leaving Vietnam. She is very sad that Titi is leaving and when saying goodbye they are both crying. Ha did not want to go back inside but her Brother Khoi took her hand and brought her inside. While they were walking inside Khoi was telling Ha that since Titi and her family were more wealthy than them that they got to flee Vietnam on a cruise ship. Ha was glad that she was poor.

Missing in Action ( March 10 )

This day nine years ago Father had left on a navy mission. He was then captured later on, on Route 1. The family doesn't know that much about what happened to father but this day Mother prepares an altar and chants for Father to return. At the end of the day mother takes everything down except the portrait of Father. She locks that away as soon as the chant ends.

Mother's Days ( March 15 )

In this poem it talks about how Mother works as a secretary in a navy office. She also stays up making baby clothes for seamstresses. Once Mother had enough money to consider buying a car. On the weekends they go to the market to take the clothes and collect goods but hardly anyone has enough money to buy anything

Eggs ( March 17 )

Brother Khoi gets mad at Mother for taking his eggs. Every day and a half the hen lays an egg and each day they take turns eating them. Brother Khoi tries to incubate them by putting them under a light. Ha would take his side but she loves the taste of eggs in the morning. Mother says if the price of eggs weren't expensive then he could continue hatching the eggs.

Current News ( March 21 )

In Ha's class they talk about the news. When they talk about the communists Ha's teacher stops talking. The class has made Fridays about happy news but no one has anything to say.

Feel Smart ( Late March )

Ha is taking afternoon school classes and Saturdays. Every Saturday morning Ha' Mother lets her go to the open market to shop. Ha's Mother would give her a list of things to buy but Ha would cut a quarter off of each food item so that she had some extra money that she could use to buy some treats for herself. Nobody knows that Ha is doing this and she feels smart.

Two More Papayas ( April 5 )

In this poem Ha is the first to see the papayas growing. She describes them as two green thumbs that will grow into orange-yellow delights.

Unknown Father ( Every Day )

In this poem Ha talks about the little things she know about her Father. She knows about what foods he does and doesn't like. Ha's Father used to say tuyet sut, which meant right way, to Mother and it would make her happy. Sometimes Ha whispers it to herself but she would never say it in front of her Mother because it would make her sad.

TV News ( April 8 )

Brother Quang aggressively rushes home from class and turns on the TV. On the news it said a pilot from South Vietnam had bombed the presidential palace and got a medal. The pilot had been a spy for the communists for years. Ha was about to say something but Mother pats her head for her to be calm.

Birthday ( April 10 )

Since Ha is the youngest she gets to celebrate her actual birthday even though she already celebrated it on Tet. Today Mother only managed to get Ha banana tapioca and black sesame seed candy. Mother makes up for it by allowing one wish but Ha insists on stories from Mother. It is usually hard for Ha to get Mother to tell her a story about her child hood. Mother starts telling stories of her childhood when she stops. Ha pouts for Mother to continue but not even pouting can make her tell more stories.

Birthday Wishes ( April 10, Night )

Ha wishes for a lot of things. She wishes that she can do what boys can do, she wishes she can let her hair grow, she wishes she can stay call all the time, she wishes she can have a sister and she wishes her father will come in her classroom one day. Most of all Ha wishes Father would come home so Mother wouldn't be sad anymore.

A Day Downtown ( April 12 )

In this poem President Thieu is giving a ceremony for all the war wives. Ha and her mother usually wouldn't go but for everyone that goes gets five kilos of sugar, ten kilos of rice, and a small jug of vegetable oil. Mother and Ha take a cyclo to the presidents palace. Ha can smell Mother's lavender scent and still longs for Mother's sunken eyes despite warnings. Once they get out they walk through an open market. Ha sees many different foods being made and gets hungry. Once they get to the presidential palace they sit on the hot metal benches. Ha is very hot and dizzy so Mother gives her a tamarind candy. Finally the president appears and is tan and sweaty. The president says that he feels sorry and starts crying. Mother clicks her tongue because she thinks that they are fake tears.

Twisting Twisting ( April 13 )

Mother measures the rice and sees that its not enough until she gets paid again. Mother mixes yam and manioc with rice saying it will taste lovely but Ha knows that's how the poor feed their children.

Closed Too Soon ( April 14 )

In the middle of Ha's class lesson a siren goes off. There is an announcement saying that school is now closed and everyone must go home. Ha gets mad and pinches the small girl next to her. Their moms are friend so the little girl will tell on her. Ha need time to finish the riddle so that she can win the sweet potato plant. Ha gets mad again knowing that the plant will be rewarded to the teachers pet.

Promises ( April 15 )

Ha sees five more papayas the size of her head. They are still green but promising.

Bridge to the Sea ( April 16 )

Fathers best friend, Uncle Son, comes to visit Ha's family. When he comes into the house he goes straight to the back door where it leads into an alley. He wants to take the family on a ship to escape South Vietnam. Mother doesn't want to risk fleeing with her children. Uncle Son says that they could possibly go on a navy ship. Mother doesn't believe him but he says that their house is their bridge to the sea.

Should We? ( April 17 )

In this poem Ha and her family have to decide whether or not they want to leave. Al the brothers have different opinions about it. Brother Quang thinks they are running away like rats and doesn't want to leave. Brother Khoi thinks that Father might come back home and see his family gone. Brother wants to go because Bruce Lee used to live there. Mother says she used to live in the North and says that Quang will go to college, Khoi will chant slogans and Lee would report everything they say at home to his teachers.

Sssshhhhhh ( April 18 )

In the middle of the night Khoi wakes up Ha and takes her to the back garden. He opens up his hands to reveal a fuzzy yellow chick. He covers Ha's mouth before she screams. He tells her not to tell Mother and that they have to stay home to protect his chick and her papaya tree and makes her pinky promise.

Quiet Decision ( April 19 )

At dinner Ha is helping Mother peel and cut the potatoes. She is about to cut the potato when she sees that it's too big. She starts cutting smaller pieces but Mother tells her not worry about saving the food.

Early Monsoon ( April 20 )

Ha feels like the monsoon is coming early. They feel like its coming early because they can hear all the bombs in the distance.

The President Resigns

On the TV the president looks sad and yellow. He announces that he is resigning. Ha looks at Mother and she raises her eyebrow.

Watch Over Us ( April 24 )

Uncle Son tells Ha's family to be ready to leave any day. He also tells them not to tell anyone about them leaving because only navy families can board the ships. Mother tells Ha that her and Father have a pack and if they ever get lost and need to find each other they will know where to go.

Crisscrossed Packs ( April 26 )

In this poem Mother is a making a bag for each of the people in the family( five ). Ha watches he starting fast and at the end of the day getting slower. Brother Khoi says to only make three. Mother tells him to go so that Father will be happy that he obeyed Mother while he was gone. Brother Khoi agrees with my her because no one can go against Mother.

Choice ( April 27 )

Today they are packing for the trip. They are all each taking : 1 pair of shorts, 1 pair of pants, 3 pairs of underwear, 2 shirts, sandals, toothbrush and paste, soap, rice, and 1 choice. Ha chooses to take her doll which she loves especially for its scars.

Left Behind ( April 27 Evening )

In this poem they are talking about the things they are leaving behind from Brother Quang's report cards to Mother's vines of jasmine. There are also photographs of the family and also of Father but Mother chooses ten and burns the rest because they cant't leave any evidence of Father's life that might hurt him.

Wet and Crying ( April 28 )

Ha's biggest papaya is yellow with a little bit of green. Brother Vu wants to cut cut it down and not let the communists have it. Mother tells Ha that yellow papaya tastes lovely with chili salt and that they should eat fresh fruit while they can. So brother Vu chops it down.

Sour Backs ( April 29 Afternoon )

It turns out that everybody found out about the navy ships. Uncle Son guides them through the crowd to the ships. All Ha can see is sweaty backs. Brother Vu comes up and puts Ha on his shoulders and pushes Quang and Khoi foward. Ha promises not to make fun of Bruce Lee ever again.

One Mat Each ( April 29 Sunset)

Ha and her family come on the ship and claim two mats but by sunset the are left with one mat. Everyone knows that the ship could but no one has the heart to say stop.

In the Dark ( April 29 Near Midnight )

At night Uncle Son visits Mother and tells her to follow him with the family onto another ship. He wants to take their family to another ship which has been said to have a better engine and more food. They are going onto the new ship when they see bombs in the sky that look like fireworks. The lights are off so the port will not be a target. After all the walking the ended up staying at the old ship with only half the passengers left.

Saigon is Gone ( April 30 Late Afternoon )

In this poem the commander ordered everyone to go below deck. Mother feels sick even though the ship is barely moving. A helicopter comes near the ship and people go crazy and start screaming. The ship starts tilting side to side and it is not helping Mother. The commander says that it's ok because its a pilot from their side. The pilot jumps out of the helicopter into the water letting it fall in behind him. The people help him up and when he comes up he says he has news to tell them. He says that the communist have crashed their tanks into the presidential palace and have taken over Saigon.

Floating ( May 1 )

Ha is told to drink water only when they need to so that they don't need to use the restroom. Ha still needs to use the restroom. Mother sighs at Ha. Mother tells Uncle Son and he takes her to a bathroom. They are allowed in the commander's cabin but Ha is embarrassed because it is so white and clean.

S-l-o-w-l-y ( May 2 )

In this poem Ha is eating the last bit of her rice. She is chewing it slowly so that it will last longer. Ha can hear other families chewing but never actually saw them eating. She leans over to the next family but Mother shakes her head.

Rations ( May 3 )

On the third day of being out at sea the commander says it's safe for the men to cook and the people to come above deck. He also says that they now have enough food and water to last them for three weeks. Every morning, noon and night they each get a clump of rice small, medium or large according to height and one cup of water no matter what size.

Routine ( May 7 )

After on week on the ship Brother Quang starts English lessons. He starts to text the rest of the family English. Ha likes it better in the afternoons when Brother Vu teaches them front and back kicks. Brother Khoi gets to monitor bathroom lines. Mother gives Ha a writing pad to write notes but Ha doodles over her words.

Once Knew ( May 12 )

In this poem Ha is thinking about her old life. About how she used to bathe without salt, nap on a hammock, and laugh for no reason.

Brother Khoi's Secret ( May 13 )

Brother Khoi is starting to stink and everyone is complaining. He is forced to sponge wipe twice a day but still wraps his jacket around his waist holding something in his pocket. Brother Vu finally forces him to show him what's in his pocket and when he shows him a dead chick appears in his hand. Brother Khoi gets mad and Brother Vu takes him above deck.

Last Respects ( May 16 )

In this poem they are lowering the Vietnamese flag. One woman tries to throw herself over and a man stabs himself in the heart with a toothbrush. Ha takes Brother Khoi to the back of the ship. She put her doll on a handkerchief with Khoi's dead chick, wrapped it up and both tossed it into the ocean.

One Engine ( May 16 )

The captain tells everybody that they are taking a different route that is safer for the people. He also tells them that they have to ration their food and and water and not to waste strength.

The Moon ( May 18 )

During the day men and children are on deck and at night the women go up. Every night Mother tells Ha that the moon stays the same and that their Father could be looking at the same room and that he is waiting for them from across the world.

A Kiss ( May 24 )

The commander stops the ship and goes on teh ship that has approched them. When he comes on the ship he is greeted by an american man. The man had came and brought food for everyone. Ha is amazed by how much food is coming and is happy when she takes a shower with nice clean water.

Golden Fuzz ( May 26 )

In this poem they switching ships and in the middle of switching ships Ha sees a man with fuzzy golden hair. Ha is curious and plucks one hair. Mother gets mad and tells he nnot to do it again.

Tent City ( May 28 )

Ha and her family have landed on an island. Them and many others have set up tents and sleeping cots. Brother Vu becomes the head chief and helps make the food. Vu somehow managed to bring home a big can of food for the family to eat.

Life in Waiting ( June to Early July )

Everyone has gotten comfortable at the refugee camp. Everyone practices English and during their free time they watch movies which Brother Quang translates.

Nuoc Mam ( July 1 )

In this poem Ha is talking about a sauce called nuoc mam. She says that whatever food you put it on will instantly make it taste better. Ever since Brother Vu started using it everyon started asking for it.

Amethyst Ring ( July 2 )

Mother wants to sell the ring that Father gave her so that she can buy thread and fabric. Brother Quang says no and Ha agrees.

Choose ( July 4 )

In this poem Mother has to choose where they will be going. Uncle Son says he has family in Canada but Canada is too cold. The man behind them says that America has more oppurtunities.

Another Tent City ( July to Early August )

In this poem they are waiting in Florida for someone to sponsor them. New people leave before them. Mother hears that sponsors prefer Christians so she changes it to Christians.

Alabama ( August 7 )

A man from Alabama finally picks Ha's family because he is looking for a mechanic for his workshop and Brother Quang is perfect.

Our Cowboy ( August 8 )

Ha feels like their sponsor looks like an American cowboy. She also hopes he has has a horse she can one day ride

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