WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Ten-year-old Hà lives in Vietnam with her mother and three older brothers. Quang is 21 and studying to be an engineer. Vũ is 18, and Khôi is 14. Her father has been missing for nine years, after leaving on a navy mission. This semi-autobiographical account is told in short, nonrhyming poems. It outlines one year in Hà’s life, from Tet, the Lunar New Year in 1975 to the same day in 1976.

Hà’s mother warns that the way they behave on the first day of the year foretells the rest of it. Mother insists one of the brothers must wake up early to put his foot on the floor and bless the house. Angry that a boy gets to do this job, Hà purposely wakes before dawn to put her own foot on the floor first. Mother’s fortuneteller predicts their lives will be a tangle that year.

Vietnam is in crisis. Communists have reached Saigon and have caused prices to soar. Hà’s best friend flees Vietnam by cruise ship with other wealthy families. Hà is glad to be poor so they can stay.

Mother and Hà attend an annual ceremony for war wives, at which the president speaks. He cries for the camera, but Mother is disgusted because she knows his tears aren’t real. As the conflict intensifies, Mother calls a family meeting and discusses ways they might leave the country. Khôi initially refuses to go with them, worried that Father will return and be unable to find them. Mother finally convinces him Father would be proud that he obeyed his mother and kept the family together.

Hà’s family packs few supplies. They burn all but a few of their photographs and board a crowded boat that leaves the harbor at night to avoid the communists’ bombs. The boat captain reports communists have crashed their tanks through the presidential palace and have taken Saigon.

Two weeks into their rough sea voyage, the commander reports South Vietnam no longer exists. Distraught about the loss of their country, a woman tries to throw herself overboard, and a man stabs his heart with a toothbrush. Khôi brought a baby chicken, but it dies in the chaos. Hà wraps it inside her doll, and they throw both items into the sea. After many days with few rations, an American ship rescues them.

In Guam, Hà and her family study English in a refugee camp. Mother decides the family should relocate to America because the boys will have more opportunities. When they land in Florida, they must wait for an American to sponsor them. Mother learns that people are getting sponsor families more quickly if their applications say they are Christians. She tells the kids all beliefs are pretty much the same, and she changes their religious affiliation on the form. Soon, a cowboy from Alabama agrees to sponsor them.

The family lives in the basement of the cowboy’s home because his wife doesn’t want the neighbors to see them. They struggle to learn English and adjust to American food. Hà thinks America is clean, quiet and lonely. The cowboy helps them get a small house of their own, and Hà struggles to be grateful for the meager accommodations.

Mother gets a sewing job, and Quang works repairing cars. The others attend school. Hà’s classmates make her feel like she’s odd, and a pink boy with white hair throws rocks at her. Hà hates always feeling stupid because she was smart back in Vietnam.

People egg Hà’s house and throw bricks through the window. The cowboy introduces them to the neighbor, Miss Washington, who is a retired teacher. She volunteers to tutor the kids, and Hà’s English begins to improve. The cowboy convinces Mother that the family should go to his Baptist church and get baptized. He says neighbors will be friendlier if this happens. Hà is dismayed to learn they will have to return every Sunday thereafter.

Hà starts to make a few friends, though the pink boy continues to terrorize her. Her teacher tries to educate the class about Vietnam, and the pink boy and his friends chant Buddha’s name, mocking the way Hà pronounced it. Hà grows increasingly sad and angry about her new home, feeling she will always be teased and considered stupid. She wonders if she ruined the whole family’s luck. Mother urges her to fight, but not with her fists. She becomes braver and responds to the taunts of “Buddha” by yelling “Jesus.”

Christmas comes and the family receives gifts from the cowboy and new friends. Hà is disappointed when she receives dried papaya, which is entirely different from the fresh papaya she loved back home. Mother soaks the pieces in hot water. Hà realizes that even though they’re not the same as she remembers, they’re not so bad.

Despite Mother’s continued chanting and looking for signs, there is no word on Father. When Mother loses a ring he gave her, she takes it as a sign he is truly gone. They have a ceremony to chant Father into eternal peace.

Since there is no I Ching Teller of Fate nearby, Mother predicts the year ahead. She says new and old will intermingle until it doesn’t matter which is which. They set up an altar, burn incense and pray for the year ahead.

Christian Beliefs

Mother learns they are more likely to get a sponsor family if they claim to be Christians. Their sponsor tells them people will be “neighborlier” if they are baptized, so they agree.

Other Belief Systems

On the anniversary of Father leaving, Mother prepares an altar and offers incense and fruit while chanting for his return. She chants for him at other times as well. Mother’s fortuneteller predicts their lives will be a tangle that year. Despite their being coerced into baptism, the family members do not change their beliefs (presumably Buddhist) or religious practices.

Authority Roles

Father has been missing for nine years after leaving for a navy mission. Mother works several jobs to support the family and fights to keep them together. She still grieves for her missing husband. President Thiệu cries and pretends to be sympathetic as he addresses military families, but his insincerity is evident.

Profanity/Violence

Hà’s teacher shows the class photos of Vietnam, including a burned, naked girl crying, desperate people screaming as they try to leave Saigon and skeletal refugees on a sinking boat.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

9 to 13

Author

Thanhha Lai

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers

Released

On Video

Year Published

2011

Awards

Newbery Honor Book, 2012; National Book Award, 2011 and others

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!