Publishers' Preview: Spring 2023: Five Questions for Thanhhà Lại

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2023 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Publishers’ Previews: Spring 2023, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored by

In Inside Out & Back Again, we were right with Hà and her family as they came to the United States. Two years later, and they are on the move again in When Clouds Touch Us.

1. What was the hardest thing about creating a sequel to your first novel, published more than ten years ago?

I knew I wanted to keep the style of prose poems, developed in the first book to show how Vietnamese flowed through Hà. But after two years in Alabama, English has seeped into her brain. In the sequel I made the poems much denser, reflecting how an avalanche of gray is starting to take over.

2. I can’t decide if I would call your style here im- or ­expressionistic. What do you think?

Impressionistic, where readers get smears of tastes, sights, sounds, feels, smells, and they must fill out the scene.

3. What is your favorite novel about mothers and daughters?

I like to read the opposite of what I know, so White Oleander by Janet Fitch comes to mind.

4. Your first piece of advice to a child faced with moving?

Your outside world will change and might be awful at times, but most likely your inside world harbors the same people to offer you comfort.

5. Did you ever get to meet a cowboy?

Oh, so many — I spent a good decade in Texas. Now, when I’m tired, my Texas accent comes out.

Sponsored by

Photo: Paula Landry.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.