"Inside Out and Back Again," Vocabulary from Part 1

Fleeing to America to escape the Vietnam War, Hà and her family end up in Alabama, where a strange new culture that they must adapt to awaits them in "Inside Out and Back Again" -- a novel written in verse by Thanhha Lai.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. monsoon
    rainy season in southern Asia
    We pretend the monsoon has come early.
  2. reproduce
    have offspring or produce more individuals
    The tired worm reproduces much more slowly at the end of the day than at the beginning
  3. glutinous
    having the sticky properties of an adhesive
    This day Mother prepares an altar to chant for his return, offering fruit, incense, tuberoses, and glutinous rice.
    Two items on the list of offerings are foods, and two produce pleasant fragrances (a tuberose is a flower, and an incense stick smells nice when burned).
  4. embroider
    decorate with needlework
    Now I am ten, learning to embroider circular stitches, to calculate fractions into percentages, to nurse my papaya tree to bear many fruits.
  5. pout
    make a sad face and thrust out one's lower lip
    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.
  6. expand
    become larger in size or volume or quantity
    An old, angry knot expanded in my throat.
  7. predict
    tell in advance
    This year he predicts our lives will twist inside out.
  8. imitation
    copying the actions of someone else
    Brother Vu screams, Ha Ya, and makes me jump every time he breaks wood or bricks in imitation of Bruce Lee.
  9. stroll
    walk leisurely and with no apparent aim
    We named you Kim Ha, after the Golden (Kim) River (Ha), where Father and I once strolled in the evenings.
  10. vow
    I vow to rise first every morning to stare at the dew on the green fruit shaped like a lightbulb.
  11. communist
    a socialist who advocates communism
    But when we keep talking about how close the Communists have gotten to Saigon, how much prices have gone up since American soldiers left, how many distant bombs were heard the previous night, Miss Xinh finally says no more.
    Communism is a theory that favors a classless society where all the people equally own the means of producing goods. But in reality, private ownership is abolished so that everything is owned by the state, and government officials are at the top of the society.
  12. flaunt
    display proudly
    Brother Quang says, One cannot justify war unless each side flaunts its own blind conviction.
  13. persuade
    cause somebody to adopt a certain position or belief
    It’s not easy to persuade Mother to tell of her girlhood in the North, where her grandmother’s land stretched farther than doves could fly, where looking pretty and writing poetry were her only duties.
    Although the line breaks are not shown in the example sentences, keep in mind that the novel is written in short free-verse poems. This can be seen here in the rhythm created by the repetition of words, sounds, and sentence structures.
  14. chide
    censure severely or angrily
    Wish Mother would stop chiding me to stay calm, which makes it worse.
  15. lavender
    an aromatic shrub with usually mauve or blue flowers
    Mother smells of lavender and warmth
  16. crepe
    small very thin pancake
    Like magic a crepe forms to be filled with shrimp and eaten with cucumber and bean sprouts.
    The crepe is a reminder of when the French had an empire that included parts of Southeast Asia. But as seen in the example sentence, the Vietnamese have transformed this food of their former colonizer and made it their own with the addition of ingredients native to their land.
  17. podium
    a platform raised above the surrounding level
    We stand in line; for even longer we sit on hot metal benches facing the podium.
  18. rickety
    inclined to shake as from weakness or defect
    I will not risk fleeing with my children on a rickety boat.
  19. slogan
    a favorite saying of a sect or political group
    Ha will come home chanting the slogans of Ho Chi Minh, and Khoi will be rewarded for reporting to his teacher everything we say in the house.
    The definition gives the word a positive tone, but in the example sentence, "slogan" has a tone of fear, since it connects to the Communists who will teach children to repeat ideas and report on their parents.
  20. pact
    a written agreement between two states or sovereigns
    Mother tells me she and Father have a pact.
  21. gaunt
    very thin especially from disease or hunger or cold
    Who can go against a mother who has become gaunt like bark from raising four children alone?
  22. clump
    a compact mass
    Into each pack: one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, three pairs of underwear, two shirts, sandals, toothbrush and paste, soap, ten palms of rice grains, three clumps of cooked rice, one choice.
  23. exposed
    not covered with clothing
    Photographs: every Tet at the zoo, Father in his youth, Mother in her youth, baby pictures, where you can’t tell whose bottom is exposed for all the world to see.
  24. horde
    a moving crowd
    Hordes pour by us, beyond us.
  25. nudge
    a slight push or shake
    In the dark a nudge here a nudge there and we end up back on the first ship in the same spot with two mats.

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