Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga is an Important Book on the Lives of Refugees and Immigrants
Updated: Sep 13
"Other words for Home" started for me as a book set in Syria. I thought I knew what I was getting into i.e. living in a country where the war is going on. But it turned out to be about life in another country as a refugee, as an immigrant.
Jude and her mother leave Syria because of the rising tension there. Jude initially resists this. She does not want to leave her brother and father in Syria, but she soon realises having no choice. She moves to Cincinnati (USA) to live with Uncle Mazin, Aunt Michelle and their daughter Sarah. Now the only person who speaks her language there is her mother. This commences her struggle of trying to fit in. Such sudden turn in her life leaves Jude with overwhelming surprises like a new school, new friends, and a different culture.
America seems so fast and complex to Jude and her mother. Jude has always loved watching American movies, but she never thought she would live among Americans without subtitles. Labels like A Middle Eastern Girl, A Syrian Girl, A Muslim Girl, A Hijabi, Non-English Speaker Girl make her angry and afraid. School feels like a strange place. It hurts her that people associate violence, sadness and war with her and her people. Her choice to wear a hijab is questioned. Her identity gets challenged. But with time, Jude finds ways to feel at home in a place that is far away from her land, with pride, confidence and bravery.
"Hoping, I am starting to think, is the bravest thing a person can do."
Written in verses, it is truly a life-affirming story on the lives of refugees. It represents the concept of exploring identity in a country where you do not belong. It is about making yourself feel at home where you get frequent reminders that your home is far away. The author has touched upon varied themes like belongingness, the lives of refugees and immigrants, the impact of wars, cultural differences, etc. The book mainly focuses on Jude’s journey of finding herself in US.
The book theme sounds heavy, but it is for teens and adults both. In fact, I believe it is important and powerful for us all to learn about the struggles of refugees and immigrants. The way world is taking shape, stories like this are the need of an hour! They stay with you for a long time.