Rummanah Aasi
Description: 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.

Review: Other Words for Home is a beautifully written novel in verse that covers war and displacement, resilience and adjustment to a new culture and country.  Growing up in a coastal town in Syria, Jude’s days revolve around her family and best friend, watching American romantic movies, and going to school. There is war looming in Syria and Jude’s brother, Issa, gets involved in the resistance movement. Jude and her mother leave Syria before the civil war peaks and move in with Uncle Mazin and his family in Cincinnati. The novel’s blank verse form works beautifully to capture Jude’s wide range of emotions as she leaves the only life she's known behind, dread with worry about her father and brother who are still in Syria and she adjusts to her new life in America. Friendships, complicated family relationships, microaggressions, Islamophobia, and a new language are just a few of the layers Warga weaves into Jude’s consciousness. Jude is keenly aware of the roles she embodies and the complexities associated with them. She is also becoming aware of the labels that are placed upon her in America such as "Arab American". Her voice is both wise and hopeful despite the obstacles that she faces. Her bravery is admirable and accessible. After a few emotional crescendos, the story is resolved with satisfying closure and believable new possibilities. I would not be surprised if this book pops up as a Newbery nominee.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is a hate crime in the book in which a Middle Eastern restaurant is vandalized and destroyed. There is also talk about menstruation and female puberty in the book. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Refugee by Alan Gratz, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
1 Response
  1. Sounds like another good one on the subjects of Syria and immigration, two important topics!

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