FARMINGTON —  The novel “Inside Out and Back Again,” is this month’s featured work in the University of Maine at Farmington’s New Commons Project. The theme is immigration.

Thanhha Lai’s debut novel tells of her childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama. Based on her first year in the U.S., and told in verse as 10-year-old Hà, the narrative is a window into the challenges of leaving the only home she knew for one of hope, dreams, grief and healing.

“Inside Out and Back Again” is a New York Times bestseller, Newbery Honor Book and winner of the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

The project presentations are:

New Commons Film Series: “Lost Boys of Sudan,” Thursday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. at the UMF Emery Community Arts Center. The 2003 documentary explores the lives of young Sudanese boys who immigrate to the United States in the wake of the civil war in their native country. The film is directed by Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk.

Clarissa Thompson, “Reading and the Public Good: Why YA Matters,” Friday, Feb. 15, at 11:45 a.m. at the UMF Mantor Library, second floor. Thompson, UMF associate professor of secondary education and English education, explores the ways in which young adult literature encourages lifelong reading and engagement with important social issues.


Douglas Rawlings, poetry reading Thursday, Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. at the Farmington Public Library. Rawlings is author of “Orion Rising” and co-founder of Veterans For Peace. The reading is relative to Lai’s novel.

Tara Weikum, “Editing Inside Out and Back Again,” Wednesday, Feb. 27, at 11:45 a.m. at the UMF Emery Community Arts Center. Weikum is vice president and editorial director at HarperCollins Publishers. She will share her experiences as editor for Lai’s novel.

Events are free and open to the public.

To learn more about the New Commons Project, or to submit a nomination for the next round of selections to be announced in 2019, visit

Thanhha Lai

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