‘I am learning how to be
at the same time.’ – Jasmine Warga, Other Words for Home
Lately novels in verse have been popping up on the top of my to-read list. Novels in verse are stories that are written using poetry instead of the typical format of a novel (sentences, paragraphs, and chapters). These books don’t have to rhyme, although some do! If you’re looking for a quick read, give a novel in verse a try. My latest read was a novel in verse that hit me right in the feels: the Newberry Award Honor winner, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga.
Jude and her family live in a beautiful seaside town in Syria. Her parents run a store, while her older brother attends school. When the war in Syria creeps closer to their home, her parents decide that it would be best for Jude and her mother to move to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with relatives. Jude is devastated. She doesn’t want to leave her older brother and father behind, but her parents have already decided they must leave.
When Jude and her mother land in Cincinnati, everything moves too fast and the world is too loud. Her family try to help the two assimilate, but Jude is at a loss. She used to watch old American movies with her brother and best friend, but those movies are nothing like the real America where she now lives. A big confusion for her: Americans need to label everything. Jude and her mother are suddenly ‘Middle Eastern’, something she has never been called before. Jude is incredibly observant, noticing the new opportunities available to her, the new ways people react to her, and the new friends she finds. Jude’s new life is full of so many surprises, both good and bad, but she is able to live up to her brother’s words to ‘be brave’.
This middle grade free verse novel was beautifully written. It is authentically written, descriptive, and thought provoking. Warga talks about many issues that immigrants face when they flee their unsafe homelands and then the issues that pop up once they land in a new place. There are themes of resilience, belonging, family, and identity. This is a story of one family’s transformation before and after the war began in Syria. Their lives will never be the same, but they have no choice.