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


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!


I am learning how to be
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?


Christmas In July!


This past weekend America celebrated it’s independence! July 4th is one of my favorites holidays, it has always brought me joy wondering what kind of fireworks my dad will find to set off this year. A lot of people in our hometown go to different fairs to sit and watch everybody let off the “big boys” as I’ve called them throughout the years. We’ve sat out in our little neighborhood that we’ve nicknamed the “holler” and we let off a huge set of different fireworks. For the past two years, we’ve sat out over by the barn, aiming the Roman candles at the street light that is placed at a very bad place! Right in the corner of the road, whereas in a pitch black night it would good for anybody drunk enough walking around to see the road turn to the right, but we’ve never liked this thing on the fourth of July. So my friend and neighbor Sammy took two Roman Candles last year and just aimed it right at the light, by the time it got dark we had both her dad and my dad trying to take out this sucker! Nobody get to it unfortunately! We also got the cops called on us because of this old lady that lived across the street, she swore up and down we were aiming at her house! We never did, but it became like a yearly ritual we had, if the cops weren’t called on us we hadn’t done our job!

Before I tell you how my night went, we have to start at the beginning of the day!

Saturday morning, well afternoon considering I couldn’t sleep worth a shit that night before. I didn’t know what we were going to do this year, nobody had talked about it and I didn’t want to make anybody mad so I kept my mouth somewhat shut. I basically drove my mom insane, asking what we were going to do and she kept answering my question with “well I don’t know what you’re doing, but I know I’m going to be sitting in the house with ChiChi hiding from the damn things!” Mom doesn’t like fireworks, technically never has! She’s been strong for the past two years because she cuddled Chevy on her lap the whole time. I have never been afraid of fireworks, I do have little nightmares the night before to keep my prepared of what could happen if things went array. Thankfully, things have never went wrong, we’ve lost our hearing and burned a few fingers (and toes!) but nothing major has happened! Around 2pm, I got off my bed and onto the floor after making my dad another CD. I sat out in the living room playing fetch with the dog and then my dad came home with both of his hands full of fireworks. I could not contain myself! It was like Christmas in July, especially after my dad dumped out all of the ones in this tube like thing. The lady that helped him pick out the fireworks saw him walking in and told him, “follow me..” People can get pretty mischievous in this time of the year and I like it!

The ones in the tube (that I cam remember) were three boxes of popits, three rounds of firecrackers, one medium size round of smoke bombs, one Roman Candle, and a few others that I couldn’t tell you what they were if I wanted to! And then he got this massive one called the “Black Widow” and the lady that sold it to him told him straight out that “this will make Otwell look like shit!” Sounds good to me!! A couple of hours later while I was in my room. my door swings wide open and my dad “look what Russell got!” There stood the biggest box of fireworks I have ever seen in my life! I knew this was going to be the best one yet! I was pumped! I went over to the garage with Sammy about eight ish, my mom dressed me in pants, socks, a thin shirt so I wouldn’t get too hot but I had to wear one of my dad’s button up shirts to protect me from the wicked mosquitos. Even though dad dosed me with bugs spray twice! I ended up only getting bit in the only spot he had missed. When he tells me to close my eyes, he puts his hand above them just in case and his hand covered up my forehead from the mist of spray and I ended up having two little horns on each side of my head according to my mother!

I sat out in the garage with everybody, watching the guys play pool and talking my head off with Teresa, JuJu, Sammy, and Ragtop. It was nice! My dad brought over my popits when he went to the house to grab the fireworks he got earlier and put them in a plastic bag for me and I asked JuJu for permission to set them off and she let me! I kept them in a corner by her table away of her feet. Apparently my dad thought once they went to the ground they were spraying her with the hay stuff they package them inside the box. They weren’t and we were all pretty vocal about that! I am the type of person that I can be both good and evil; I know how to turn it off! The ones that didn’t go off when I threw them on the ground, Ragtop picked them back up and since I told them about what I used to do when I was a kid, if some didn’t go off I’d just run over them in my wheelchair. Worked pretty well that way and still does! That was my evil side coming out loud and clear! As for my good side, I gave some to Chey and later on Chevy and some of our neighbor kids. I want everybody to have some fun with one another! And this was innocent fun for these kids and definitely brought me a lot of joy to share with these kids and see the happiness on their faces too! I still have some there in the garage! Plus a whole bag full that I’ve had for a couple of years now! They’re being saved for a special occasion!

As it started getting darker, our show was about to start! Our little neighborhood came out to watch and it was so cute that these little kids wanted to watch, the youngest was a year old I think! They just loved these bigger fireworks going up high in the air and exploding! Everybody spread out in the yard, as my dad and Russell set up little tubes in the ground to release these suckers and around 9:30pm they started shooting them off! Usually we have quite a few foundations and this time we only had three and the rest where these bigger ones that literally took up most of the sky! We had a couple intermissions and while those happened, we could see the surrounding areas releasing theirs above the houses and in between the trees. I was having all sorts of fun, but we didn’t get to do any sparklers this year and I think the kids would have really enjoyed that! Sparklers were always a fun activity for my sister and I when we were kids, even though that’s how we were burned! Before the fireworks went off, I asked Sammy if she could take some pictures for me for my blog post because I usually do one every year and not only did Sammy take some but so did Ragtop too! Sammy and I were having fun trying to figure out which each one looked like after she took its picture. One looked like a skull and the other was strange; it looked like a damn goat! Literally had the horns and front hoofs!

On Sunday, I basically laid around in bed. I had apparently used up a lot of energy and I had to push myself up to do anything productive otherwise I’d feel like I wasted the whole weekend, even though I knew I didn’t! What did do you over the weekend?

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Perfect Stocking Stuffers Under $20 From Wal-Mart


I’ve been looking on other blog sites to try to draw inspiration with their Christmas or “Blogmas” posts. I decided to opt out of writing every day in December since in the colder months, I find myself slowly getting into the whole Christmas spirit. Anyways, while drawing some inspiration, I’ve had it between writing my favorite Christmas sweaters or what were the perfect stocking stuffers this year. I decided on the stuffers as I thought would be fairly fun thinking of others and what would be cheap. So I found all these items shown above from Wal-Mart and they’re all under $20! I also decided to draw some inspiration from my friends what would be perfect stocking stuffers too! I even went to as far to asking my dad what his favorite gift he got in his stocking as a kid was, he didn’t remember. He wasn’t much fun.My mom said she used to get apples and oranges, now at first I thought this was a term of a game, but nope, they were actual apples, oranges and grapefruits inside their stockings! My grandparents did this once or twice when we were younger too! I had a lot of answers my Facebook and that helped out a lot too!

Everybody has a few common answers: candy, lotions and socks! Not very many people said gift cards. I think my favorite answers were candles, scratch off tickets, and my Uncle David always has to be included in some fashion. His answer was pizza. Unless somebody has put pizza rolls inside his stocking then I could see it being done but I know he was just kidding around! Anyways, I remember in my stockings growing up, especially teenagers years til now. CDs, movies, and candy were the biggest hits with us! You could always tell my dad got something for me because he knows what kind of candy we each like the most. He used to get me the bubblicious brand of gum. He knows how much I love the good stuff to blow those giant bubbles. He always agreed with me when it came to that stuff being the best and I’d get a couple of packets every year at Christmas time.

Now back to the items above! It was kind of difficult to find something for every age and both genders. At one point I had started off looking for something small enough to fit inside a fairly medium size stocking, but by the third thing I found I realized that the next one wouldn’t fit into a stocking even if you shoved it as far back as possible, it just wasn’t going to fit. This item was a Olaf toy that sang “In Summer” if you squeezed his nose or something. Realistically, this would not fit inside a normal stocking. So out that one went and I got back on track, but I still think it was a terrific gift and it was also under $20 too! I selected items that were both a want and need in everyday life. So the watch and clutch/wallet would be on the “need” and the rest is on the “want” as what a normal child or teenager would want to get for Christmas. Of course, if it came in what your child likes the most, you should get it in what they like and not what I like. I selected in familiar brands that I like and what I think is “popular” since I don’t know all the trends very well, I went with my gut on parts. All items above I’m including links if you wanted to order online or not. Just to make things easier on you! Click each item to bring up the link!

  1. The Vampire Diaries – Season One ($12.96)
  2. Leopard Cellphone Pouch ($3.00)
  3. Disney’s Frozen Movie Soundtrack ($10.00)
  4. Hershey’s Kiss Sliver Necklace ($20.00 and this was the cheapest one!!)
  5. Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles Lip Balm ($4.88)
  6. My Little Pony Body Shimmer Gift Set ($5.00)
  7. Men’s Digital Watch ($14.99)
  8. Peppermint Holiday Candy Canes ($2.48)