Sunday, April 19, 2020

OTHER WORDS FOR HOME by Jasmine Warga.  New York: Balzer + Bray, 2019.  342p.  ISBN 978-0062747808 hc. $16.99     Gr. 5-8     JUV

Jude, a young Syrian teen who loves American movies, wants to be a movie star someday, along with her best friend, Fatima.  Her older brother, Issa, is a university student who actively participates in student protests against the government, making the family a target for political retaliation.  After a raid on their home, Jude and her mother are sent to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with her uncle and his American wife.  Now Jude will have to use the English she learned while watching movies, in order to improve her language skills and survive in a new country.  Although Jude extends the hand of friendship to her very American cousin, Sarah is clearly not interested is having relatives that eat and dress ethnically.  The cousins’ relationship is strained to breaking point when Jude and Sarah try out for the same part in the school play.  A good deal of cultural information about Islamic religion, Syrian food, and women covering their hair when they reach puberty is included in the text.  It’s also a story about being a part of two countries at the same time, making new routines while, at the same time, retaining the old.  By writing in verse, Warga emphasizes human ideals and minimizes descriptive geography, sending the message that people everywhere want to be understood and valued.

Lynette Suckow, Superiorland Preview Center, Marquette, MI

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