When Clouds Touch Us by Thanhhà Lại

Happy Tuesday! I'm HONORED to welcome Thanhhà Lại to Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate When Clouds Touch Us, the follow-up to one of my all-time favorite books, Inside Out and Back Again. We discussed Dung Ho, poetry, story, and more. I wrote the words in purple, and she wrote the words in black. Thank you, Thanhhà!

Dung Ho’s cover illustration for When Clouds Touch Us stuns me—the colors, the clouds, her hair. Now a more grown-up Hà has turned around from the previous cover and steadies herself for Texas.

When Clouds Touch Us tells the story of Hà and her family two years after becoming refugees. Yes, she now speaks English and eats lunch in the cafeteria, instead of the bathroom, with actual friends. But then her mother announces they must move again, to Texas, which Hà can’t even pronounce. In many ways the long task of rebuilding proves even more daunting than fleeing war in panic.

Poetry allows my story to float using as few words as possible.

Story is anything that alerts my mind and quickens my heart.

John Schu, you should have asked me…when writing in Hà’s voice, do I think in Vietnamese or English? For Hà at 10, when she didn’t know English, I thought in VNese then auto-translated so my fingers typed in English. For Hà at 12, I thought in a hybrid, so the poetry in the sequel feels more wordy because to Hà English is so wordy.

Thanhhà Lại is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Inside Out & Back Again, her debut novel in verse, which won both a National Book Award and a Newbery Honor, and the acclaimed Listen, Slowly and Butterfly Yellow, both of which were named to numerous best book of the year lists. She was born in Viêt Nam and now lives in New York with her family.

Look for When Clouds Touch Us on May 9, 2023.


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