Reviewed by Sascha Harris
The novel, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga, documents the life of Jude, a Syrian refugee that moves to Cincinnati, Ohio at the start of the Syrian War, leaving all that she knows behind. As Jude slowly adjusts to her new home, her surroundings and American culture as a whole, become more familiar. Upon moving, she deeply misses her family and friends in her war-torn coastal hometown in Syria. Jude meets many new people and learns many profound lessons through her experience moving to America as a Muslim refugee.
I feel that this novel gives readers a clear depiction of an immigrant or refugee experience moving to America. Within the book, Jude faces discrimination because of her religion, struggles learning English and ultimately feels out of place. Since this book is written in first person, readers are able to learn, on a personal level, about the experience of one of millions that have gone through something similar to Jude. It was interesting for me to learn about life in Syria before the war broke out and also how it deeply affected the lives of the people living there. I also enjoyed that the book was written in a free-verse poetry style, similar to Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. The rich figurative language and detailed description within Warga’s writing helps readers to truly know how Jude felt throughout every given moment in the novel. The following quote demonstrates this: “Sometimes it feels like when I boarded that plane to fly to America I left my heart behind, beating and lonely on the other side of the ocean,” (78).
Other Words for Home is a story of immigration and assimilating into a society so much different than what one is used to. Jude learns to adjust to her new surroundings, while still honoring the life (including tradition, religion and family) she left behind in Syria. At certain points, Jude feels like an outsider, like she doesn’t belong. This novel can teach readers that one can always get through a hard time, no matter the circumstances and know that it will get better. Jude exemplifies bravery and courage as she endures many difficult moments in her life in America. She experiences highs and lows, but ultimately comes out of every situation a changed and wiser person.
About Sascha Harris
Sascha Harris lives in New York City. She enjoy writing, singing and photography.