Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga [in Booklist]
When violent unrest arrives in Syria, Jude’s family is cleaved in half as she and her pregnant mother leave behind her father and older brother to live with her uncle’s family in Ohio. Jude perseveres with English, an unfamiliar (sometimes unwelcoming) culture, establishing new friendships, and creating a community.
Listeners are treated to a bonus introduction from Balzer + Bray co-publisher Alessandra Balzer, who provides glimpses into U.S.-born Arab American Jasmine Warga’s childhood that caused her to be “ashamed of her own culture.” At book’s end is Warga’s own reveal that she “wrote Jude for [her] twelve-year-old self, who never saw a brown girl in a book who was proud of her family and where she came from.”
Iran-born, LA-based, first-time narrator Vaneh Assadourian is most affecting when she embodies Jude’s determination. Her inexperience unfortunately shows, as she assumes various inaccurate accents (she’s particularly unconvincing with Jude’s fellow ESL students). Quibbles aside, Warga’s middle-grade novel-in-verse debut is a resonating lesson in having “a big heart and even bigger dreams.”
Readers: Middle Grade