SYNOPSIS: Other Words for Home
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises.
Young Jude is uprooted from her life in Syria in the midst of the civil unrest. She and her mother (who is pregnant) move temporarily to Cincinnati to live with her uncle and his family. Jude is sad to leave behind her country, best friend Fatima, father, and brother who’s involved in various protests in Syria. Her father is trying to keep their shop going at home, while her brother, Issa wants to help other people in their homeland.
In America, Jude — who used to be the best English student in Syria — has to join an ESL class and deal with questions about her hijab. She’s also trying to build a relationship with her cousin who feels culturally adrift, unable to speak Arabic and knowing little to nothing about Syria. Still, Jude finds good things in America and learns how brave she can be.
First off, I listened to this one on audio and enjoyed the #ownvoices narration! This was my first Jasmine Warga book and I loved it. I was honestly a bit hesitant because it’s a novel-in-verse, which are typically hit or miss for me. Plus, I was going to do the audiobook, which can detract from poetry for me. But, this was immersive. Although the subject matters are vastly different, it reminded me of Veera Hiranandani’s The Night Diary, which I adored.
Warga’s writing in Other Words for Home, is lyrical. Jude is an astute character, deeply observant of the world around her. In America, she deals with prejudice and the hostility that people who are different in any way often face. But I also liked that there was good in her experiences too. From the wonderful teacher who made her feel like “a warm loaf of bread” to Miles, the kind boy who befriends her at school — Jude learns to be “sad and happy at the same time.”
One other explored angle is how her cousin, Sarah feels about missing the part of her that is Arabic. While she loves Jude, she can’t help but envy her knowledge of their roots. Jasmine Warga skillfully captures that feeling of never fitting in anywhere that some biracial people often have.
OverallI would strongly recommend Other Words for Home by @jasminewarga to anyone looking for stories set in Syria, fans of Hena Khan's Amina's Voice, and anyone in search of a story with a brave female protagonist. Click To Tweet
I loved this well-written novel-in-verse. Other Words for Home is a deft examination of what it feels like to be regarded as “other” in a foreign land. Yet, this novel is hopeful. Jude is a shining example of the resilience of immigrants — that people can bloom wherever they’re planted. Other Words for Home features a Muslim girl who decides to wear the hijab and tackles displacement and the search for identity in a foreign land. I would strongly recommend this novel to anyone looking for stories set in Syria, fans of Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice, and anyone in search of a story with a brave female protagonist.Other Words for Home is a deft examination of what it feels like to be regarded as other in a foreign land. Click To Tweet
Buy Other Words for Home on Amazon
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Have you read this book or anything by Jasmine Warga (all her previous books are YA)? What did you think? What are your favorite books with Muslim characters? I’d love to know!