I’m starting to think,
might be the bravest thing a person can do.
- Excerpt from Other Words for Home
Before the protests began, Jude lived with her family in Syria. She watched old American movies with her best friend and walked on the beach with her older brother. She dreamed of being an actress like the ones in her favorite movies. That was before.
As tensions rise in Jude’s home city, she and her mother fly to America, where they move in with her aunt and uncle in Cincinnati. As Jude struggles to adjust to a new culture, language, school—a new life—she learns that America is different than it seems in the movies. Everything is big and loud and shiny, clamoring for attention. She learns that some people expect her to be a certain way before they even meet her, or seem to treat her differently when she starts wearing a headscarf. But in America she also finds friends, allies, hope for her family in Syria and a connection with those in America. She finds a place which, slowly but surely, begins to feel like home.
Every now and then I’ll randomly stumble across a book, decide to give it a try, and end up completely adoring it. Other Words for Home is definitely one of those. A combination of gorgeous free verse, multilayered plot, and a protagonist who I completely loved creates a poignant, inspiring story about finding a new home and growing up. The story never gets violent or dark, but still honestly faces the realities of being a young Middle Eastern refugee. I’ve connected with countless book characters in different ways over the years, but Jude touched me more deeply than any have in a long time. Her fears for her family and the future make her immensely relatable, but it’s her courage, dreams, and unquenchable spark which truly make her shine.
Although it’s a middle grade book, Other Words for Home can easily be enjoyed by readers of all ages—it’s also great for discussions or book groups. I would highly recommend it to readers ages 10+ looking for a story brimming with strength, courage, and hope for a better future.