Other Words for Home | BookReview #25

Hey guys! Last week, I binge-watched Never Have I Ever and that show made my day. I want to write a detailed review on it but with the all my to-rview list piling up, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do it. But I’ll try to write it by this month.

Today I’m reviewing a middle grade fiction that took me by surprise with it’s verse and story. It only took 2-3 hours to finish it, with lots of distractions, of course, but it put so much of questions in me.

Without further ado, let’s jump to the review.

About the Book

Title: Other Words for Home • By: Jasmine Warga

Published on: 28 May 2019   • By: Harper Collins

Pace: Fast • Pages: 396 • Age: 9 and above

StandaloneGenre: Middle Grade Fiction

Song: Exodus by Ruelle

I am learning how to be
and happy
at the same time.

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.


Rep: Syrian (mc), Lebanese (friend), Syrian-American(sc); Korean, Chinese and Somalian (friends)


Mahzozeen in Arabic means lucky. It’s one of the terms Jude has been called throughout the book. Jude is from Syria. She loved her hometown, filled with the scent of the sea and tourists spilling the streets. But as the political affairs take some unexpected turns in her country, she visits her uncle in Cincinnati with her mother. She is not happy to leave her home— friend, brother, and father— behind to go to a place which she has only seen in movies. There she becomes someone new and tries to find her new home.

Jude was a happy, sweet, intelligent kid. She would smile at anyone who would pass by her and loved watching Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, etc. She yearns so badly to see her brother’s smile like he used to before, but she never got to see it until she left for America. In her eyes, her brother’s become someone who speaks against their father, goes on rallies and protests.

Jude is not a political person like her brother but she listens and pays attention to whatever happens around her. She notices how everything became tense after a point. How people have to show their allegiance to the ruling party and can’t voice their dissent in public.

This story was about how she learns to look at the world, her world, sometimes filtered through her innocent lens, but otherwise, it was mostly seeing the truth in its face.

Arabic Proverbs

Jude always went back to Arabic proverbs when she wanted to define her emotions, moments, and people. It was automatic for her to use these proverbs.

I was amazed at how these proverbs were sneaked in the right places, capturing the essence of what she was feeling and transpiring it into words; it was a conversation between cultures and languages.


It’s never easy for a person to adjust when they are displaced from their home. This book wasn’t having a grim tone to it when it spoke about these issues Jude faced. The verse form of the book and Jude’s age helped in keeping the tone mild. She would always speak about the creaking floors of her Uncle’s house, the Americaness of the place, and her cousin, how Layla (though Lebanese) was American too. So home for her was more than a place. In the end, she does find her new home and it was sweet to see her questioning and exploring this world.


Language was one of the aspects that stood out for me in the novel. When Jude set foot in America, she knew basic English but she was shy to use it. Her mother didn’t know to speak, but it served as a bridge for Jude and her mom, to learn something new together. Jude was a clever girl but she never spoke out in her Math classes because she didn’t know how to put into words how she’d solved the problem. She was more alive in her ESL classes because she was herself in those classes, interacting with kids who were from other countries and language barriers, yet formed a team. These chapters were my favorite in the book.

Jude always wanted to be an actress, so I wasn’t surprised that she wanted to take part in the musical. Many told her she wouldn’t get it, but she didn’t let anything stop her.

People’s doubts and hesitation about her weren’t just connected to her singing or speaking skills, but it went beyond that. People looked at her differently because she wore a hijab. Even her aunt, who adored her and was warm to her from the time she set her foot in America, asked if it was her choice to wear it. It was through these subtle lines and words, people would drop their prejudice against the hijab.

Prior to all these events, Jude describes why women wore the hijab in their culture and its significance. So it was nice to see these two narratives addressed in the book side by side.

Jude might have left Syria, temporarily, but it has been with her in her thoughts. She worries about her father who is alone looking after his shop; her brother who had to move to another city and her friend whose family was forced to move too. Jude questions so many vital questions regarding the situation in her country. How the rest of the world normalized that violence is a day-to-day thing in the Middle East and when some anonymous person bombs America, it’s always the Muslims who did it. She speaks about this hypocrisy in her story, and the Islamophobia prevalent in these situations and other affairs that are still relevant to our current times.


It’s uncanny how this book, which was so fast, light, and lovely, was able to convey so much to the reader. I think that’s the power of words. Other Words for Home is evocative, powerful and a fitting novel for our current times. I highly recommend this book to everyone.
If you like The Poet X, then you’d love this one. Though they are worlds apart in their story and voices.

If you like The Poet X, then you’d love this one. Though they are worlds apart in their story and voices.

It is lovely to be a part of something that feels bigger than you.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
TW // Islamophobia, Riots, Bombing, Hijabophobia
About the Author

Jasmine Warga is the author of the New York Times bestseller Other Words For Home. Other Words For Home earned multiple awards, including a John Newbery Honor, a Walter Honor for Young Readers, and a Charlotte Huck Honor. She is also the author of young adult books, My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now, which have been translated into over twenty different languages. The Shape of Thunder, her next novel for middle grade readers, will be published in May 2021. Originally from Cincinnati, she now lives in the Chicago-area with her family.

Have you read this novel or is it on your TBR? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

— Dr. Seuss

Paperbacktomes Gratitude Pic 2021


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