Book Review: “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga

Hello!

Last year, I was scrolling through Facebook and this meme had popped up from a library, stating mainly to those who are adults, that it is okay to enjoy reading YA (young adult) books. I took this to heart because I have heard of my favorite booktubers feeling uneasy about checking out books in this genre, and to see this slip all throughout my social media has influenced my own journey branching out from other genres that I feel weird reading like children’s literature. I wasn’t a lover of reading (of any kind) when I was little, so now I’m diving deep into classics I had pushed aside in the past.

This book isn’t part of that list, but it is middle grade, which is targeted for students in junior high or middle school, at least that’s what I believe is the meaning behind it. An example of what is considered middle grade are the Harry Potter books. Of course, they take a darker note after ‘The Goblet of Fire’ but for the most part they are always regarded for pre-teens around the ages of 10-15.

WARNING: there are some spoilers below. So, If you are planning on reading the book in the near future, you might want to skip this post!

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I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.


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—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

taken from Goodreads.

This was one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, and a brilliant read for this month as it is Ramadan in the Muslim communities. As you may know, I love to learn, and a few years ago I was introduced to the holiday event Ramadan and Eid. This was one that I was not familiar with, but I was thrilled to learn what people do to celebrate the month of fasting, praying, and ultimately the renewal of life that comes with it. I’ve learned a lot in the last three years, as I always read at least one book around Ramadan, and this year I chose “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga.

This story of a little girl who spent her early years in Syria, living with her family, going to school, and having the typical childhood, until the start of the violence there breaks every thing she is used to, and it immediately made me remember an old friend of mine, her name was Reem, and she lived in Syria. One of her last tweets was in 2014, and honestly, every time she came on with new updates about her and her outlook on the country as a whole was so heartbreaking for us. I haven’t talked about her much because it hurts to know how close she was to it. I don’t know if she made it out of Syria and I’ve checked her previous accounts on Twitter, but there’s nothing there. I always hope she is somewhere free of the chaos and that’s all I can really do.

For our main character Jude, you are able to see the innocence of this young girl navigating this new world in a way; I liked the way, we as the reader, were able to see the good and bad in Jude’s life. She goes to a school in America with her cousin, who was born here. It was interesting to see the differences between these little girls as they are part of the same blood but has been through different things. For Jude’s cousin Sarah, she wouldn’t be totally comfortable accepting a hijab after starting her period. You get the gist right away that she wasn’t raised like that and isn’t very accepting of Jude to being like that.

and I know I am not back home, but here, in this home.

Despite this, there was one girl that was a great addition to Jude’s life, and her name is Layla. She was born in the United States, but her family is from Lebanon and own a Middle Eastern restaurant that Jude visits to enjoy food and love of her native homeland. Layla is a great insight into what it is like for a child who doesn’t feel like she belongs and feels like she’s punished for it. I believe Sarah and Layla respect two sides of what it’s like being a girl in America. If people don’t understand something, they are afraid of it. I heard this phrase a lot as a teenager, but it really spoke to me while reading about Jude in this book.

A way of getting acclimated to her new school was instantly being in an ESL class. ESL means “English Second Language” and I can remember seeing several students in school growing up, having to be hallways to learn English, because as far as I knew we didn’t have those at the time. Honestly, it wasn’t until high school we were allowed to choose between two languages to learn as an elective, and they were German and Spanish. In Jude’s case, she has three other students in her class, and they were from other parts of the world, and it was sweet to see them learn slang words like “bougie” (which I did not learn about until I was 28!) and phrases such as, “you know?”

There were so many things I truly adored about this book, but I did not enjoy how it ended. I felt like it should have given the reader more of what happens after that final scene, but instead we were left with a cliffhanger ending and it really angered me because I thought it could have continued on a little more, but I’ll get over it.

Have you read “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga yet? If so, what were your thoughts? What was your favorite scene(s) of the whole book?

snowflake

3 thoughts on “Book Review: “Other Words for Home” by Jasmine Warga

  1. Thanks for sharing! I’ve truthfully never heard of this book, but I still to an entirely different genre and don’t venture out much. It’s amazing to me though that they have books with so exquisite plots coming out for middle school aged children. I think it’s brilliant and super important for learning!

    Liked by 1 person

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