The Experiences of Child Refugees in Children of War by Arthur Brice and Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Throughout history, millions of people across the world have gone through the universal refugee experience of fleeing their countries, and finding a new home in societies abroad. A refugee is someone who is forced to flee from their home country to escape conflict or danger. Refugees must search for asylum in countries abroad, losing almost everything familiar. In “Children of War” by Arthur Brice, and “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai, you learn about the experiences of young children forced to flee their homes due to war and disaster. Thanhha Lai’s novel, “Inside Out & Back Again” centers around 10 year old Ha and her family. As the Vietnam War grows dangerously close to their home in Saigon, they are forced to flee from the country, twisting their lives inside out. After spending months in a crowded refugee camp, Ha’s mother concludes that her family should attempt to find a new home in America. Ha and her family must cope with the universal refugee experience of having their lives twisted inside out, before slowly being turned back again when they manage to find a new home. When refugees are forced to leave home, they lose almost everything: their family, country, culture, and even their identity. Their lives will only begin to turn back again when they create a new home for themselves, and their peers and remaining family help them regain hope.
The lives of refugees are turned inside out when they lose everything they once had, including their culture and their country. After fleeing from their home countries, they must cope with the fact that they may never be able to return home. In the rising action of the novel Inside Out & Back Again, Ha and her family are fleeing from Vietnam on a large boat that has been packed with other refugees. The commander of the boat begins to speak in front of the boat’s passengers, delivering news that manages to twist the lives of everyone even further. To the refugees’ dismay, he becomes the bearer of bad news, stating: “It’s over, Saigon is gone.” (Lai, 69). At this point, the refugees have not only lost their home, their home has been destroyed. The North Vietnam forces took control of South Vietnam, bringing the entire country into the grasp of a communist government. The lives of Ha and her family were now destroyed. They had lost their country, and would not be able to return any time in the near future, and possibly not even for the rest of their lives. In many cases, refugees may flee from their countries due to a malicious government or violent groups that have managed to invade the country. In Children of War, when asked how his father had been killed, Emir talks about how his home had been taken over by the Serb army. He says, “They came into our homes and said they had established a new government.” (Brice, 26). They were forced to flee because it had been taken over, and a new government had been created in their home country. Before they had even escaped their country, they had already lost their home when it had been invaded. Refugees must mourn the loss of their countries, after they lose their homes due to threatening and dangerous conflicts. They must escape from their countries and find new homes, all while coping with the loss of their identities, and their family members.
The lives of refugees are turned inside out when they lose their families. The loss of a parent or sibling is devastating, especially at a time where refugees need their families most. They must find new homes in completely different countries, even if they are already suffering from the loss of a loved one. In Inside Out & Back Again, Ha lost her father to the same conflict she was forced to escape from. Nine years before Ha, her brothers, and her mother fled South Vietnam, their father, who worked in the navy, had been captured by the north. Ha did not fully come to peace with this loss for years, and held onto her hope that her father was still alive, not knowing he was dead. Ha explains her father’s capture and disappearance, writing, “Father left home on a navy mission on this day nine years ago when I was almost one. He was captured on Route 1 an hour south of the city by moped. That’s all we know.” (Lai, 10).
Ha lost her father before she could ever get to know him. He had been killed during the Vietnam War, the war that forced Ha and her remaining family to escape from the country nine years later. Many young refugees lose parents to the wars in their home countries. When young refugees lose their families, it can destroy them, especially since they are still children. Many will lose the little hope they had left, and cannot see how their lives could possibly get better. In Children of War, when asked how the war changed her life, Amela described the impact that her father’s death had on her. She said, “But after I found out about my father’s death, everything seemed so useless. I couldn’t see any future for myself.” (Brice, 26). Because of the war in Bosnia, Amela lost her father in a concentration camp created by the Serb army. All hope Amela had of seeing her father again had been destroyed. His death had such a large impact on her, that she lost all hope for the future as well. She couldn’t see how she could continue without her father. When refugees lose members of their families, they may give up on everything, as their entire world has been shattered. This can make it much harder for them to turn their lives back again, now that they must mourn their losses.
The lives of refugees finally begin to turn back again when they create a new home for themselves, and their peers and remaining family help them to regain hope. Refugees can finally hope for a brighter and better future when they learn to live in their new homes, and manage to adapt to the new culture. At the very end of Inside Out & Back Again, an entire year has passed since the beginning of the novel. It is now Tet again, and Ha is praying for what she wants to happen in this new year. She is having trouble with her wishes, before deciding, “I think and think, then close my eyes again. This year I hope I truly learn to fly-kick, not to kick anyone so much as to fly.” (Lai, 259). After her entire life was turned inside out, Ha has now found a new home in Alabama. With the help of her handful of friends at school, her teachers, and her family, Ha has finally managed to find hope. She now looks forward to the future, and can see that everything is now behind her. She can now start over in her new home, without fear. In Children of War, Amela explained how her life had been turned inside out when she became a refugee, and found asylum in America. After starting school once again, and having her life in Bosnia behind her now, she can finally see a future for herself in America. When asked about her life in America, she says, “America is giving us a chance for a better future than we could have in Bosnia.” (Brice, 26). Amela lost all hope for her future when her father passed away in a concentration camp, but now that she has started a new life in America, she has gained hope. Her family, and her start at school have helped her, as does not have to worry about the danger in Bosnia. She is now safe in America, where she has created a new home with her mother and brother.
When refugees are forced to leave home, they lose practically everything: their family, country, culture, and even their identity. When they create new homes in countries abroad, they will finally begin to regain hope, and see a future for themselves, with help from their remaining family and peers. Refugees suffer through many terrible things, but with the help of others around them, they will be able to find the hope they need. When someone becomes a refugee, it may take a long time, but they will find a new home, despite everything they’ve lost.
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