Crossing Cultures: Inside Out and Back Again (ft. Thanhhà Lại, Rajani LaRocca, & Jasmine Warga)
Play • 23 min
Middle grade is a time when readers can be especially moved by the books they pick up. Books can center kids marginalized by conflict, can inspire other readers to decenter themselves, to listen better, and to be more intentional with welcome signs. In one sense, borders are fiction, lines made up by winners of wars. In another sense, borders have a potent impact on the lives of the people who cross them, often as a result of those wars. but the truth of crossing borders is in the smallest details of people’s lives and in the white space between those details.

In this episode, three authors reveal the experiential journey of their child characters who cross borders and merge cultures in their books. Thanhhà Lai, Rajani LaRocca, and Jasmine Warga share their personal journeys of arriving in a new land, learning English, making friends, and what inspired them to find their character’s voice in poetry. Stories like theirs remind all readers that just by being mindful of the way we treat each other, we can make the world anew … every day.

To learn more about Thanhhà Lại’s, Rajani LaRocca’s, or Jasmine Warga’s books, visit

Do you have a story about how a classic book changed your life? Tweet @readingpod or email us at Learn more at And, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts.

[:25] Rajani and Jasmine share treasured moments from Inside Out and Back Again.

[3:32] Thanhhà describes her book as a recollection of her daily routine living amid war and the shock of adjusting to Alabama and English.

[8:04] Jasmine and Rajani describe what inspired them to structure the narrative of their books in prose poems.

[10:45] In Other Words for Home, Jasmine portrays the tension points of dealing with Islamophobia in the U.S. and the joy that exists in the Arab and Muslim community for her young adult character, Jude.

[12:51] In Red, White, and Whole, Rajani’s protagonist, Reha, swirls between Indian and American culture while her mother is sick with Leukemia.

[14:52] Falling back into her past allowed Jasmine to channel Jude’s adolescent voice.

[16:15] Thanhhà describes how she blends a youthful point of view into a complicated situation.

[17:00] War, refugees, freedom, and the truth of crossing borders.
More episodes
Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu