Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

white book on brown round table
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“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.”


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This book is perfection. If you are going to read one YA/Teen book this year, I think it should be this one.

While I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but wish I’d had this to read when I was in middle school; it would have had such a greater impact on me than the “classic” or “modern classic” literature we were made to read. Other Words for Home is powerful, emotional, relatable, and timely. I can’t think of a better book for young people to be reading and discussing with their teachers and peers.

Jude’s story is made up of very short chapters written in prose, making the reader feel as though they are sitting with her as she tells her story. She pour out her hopes and fears in such a candid way that some of the shortest passages simply took my breath away. Jude represents the immigrant experience of so many people today and I think this is a very important story to tell.

This book reminded me in a lot of ways of Amina’s Voice, which I read a few months ago. It is also about a Muslim girl overcoming challenges in America, who finds her voice through singing and building strong community relationships, as does Jude.

I cannot recommend this book enough to readers of all ages. It puts a lot of things into perspective, and I think we would all do well to walk in someone else’s shoes, someone like Jude, even if just for the time it takes to read this book.


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