Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Other Words For Home and some more blather

Warga, Jasmine. Other Words for Home
May 7th 2019 by Balzer + Bray
E ARC from Edelweiss Plus

Jude and her family live in a tourist town along the coast in Syria. Her father runs a small snack shop, and Jude loves hanging out with her friend Fatima. As the political situation in the country becomes intense, Jude's brother, Issa, starts to get involved in the resistance movement, imperiling himself and his family. Eventually, things get bad enough that Jude and her newly pregnant mother are sent to Cincinnati to stay with the mother's brother, who is a doctor. Jude misses her father and brother (who has gone missing), and isn't entirely convinced it's as dangerous to be in Syria as everyone thinks. Her Aunt Michelle and Uncle Mazin seem very nice, and her cousin Sarah is okay, although clearly a bit irritated that she has to deal with Jude. Jude starts middle school, and struggles with her class work a bit, but finds comfort in being in an ELL class, where the other students are also struggling with issues of homesickness and fitting in. In her other class, Jude does make friends with Miles, a boy who finds it hard to make friends because of his interest in science and astronomy. She also meets Layla, a girl whose parents run a Middle Eastern restaurant on Ludlow Avenue. As she becomes more comfortable in school, Jude decides to try out for the school production of Beauty and the Beast, even though everyone, including Layla, who has done sets for the plays, tells her that girls "like her" don't perform. When several racially motivated verbal attacks are aimed at Jude and her mother, Jude starts to wonder if this might be right. However, she has enough bravery to prove everyone wrong, and gets support from  her friends and family once they realize that she will not be stopped. WHile Jude would like to go back to Syria, she begins to realize that Cincinnati can also be "home".
Strengths: There was just enough information about Jude's life in Syria with her friend Fatima, about the struggles going on in that country, and about settling in to a new school. The plot about Jude being in the play was just enough to hang the other issues on and keep the story moving along. There was some discussion of Jude's decision to wear the hijab, and a few incidents with others not understanding why women wear it. Layla, who was born in the US but faces the same prejudices as Jude, was a good counterpoint to Jude, and is able to explain to Jude how things, sadly, are in this country in regard to immigrants. I would not mind a sequel where the rest of Jude's family comes to settle in Cincinnati.
Weaknesses: The verse format always leaves me wanting more details, and I felt like I only knew about half of what Jude was feeling about being in the US.
What I really think: I'm pretty sure that there actually was an Ali Baba restaurant on Ludlow in the early 1990s-- it replaced the Busy Bee Cafe, which I adored when I was a college student but could only afford to eat at about twice! I enjoyed this book tremendously, and thought it was a great depiction of a student struggling in a new country. As both a mirror and a window book, this is fantastic. Even though my students tend to shy away from books in verse, they adore books about children from different places in the world.

Here's a flashback-- I used to read books in the evening, then post about them the next morning. I hardly ever do that now, since I can schedule posts. I just did one for Stuart Gibbs' Charlie Thorne, and that comes out September 17th! Last night, I read several books that just weren't what I wanted. Now, I don't include them on the blog. Used to do "Not What I Wanted Wednesday"!

Have any readers noticed that I try to post certain kinds of books on regular days of the week? Monday is reserved for things I really love and nonfiction, Tuesday (thanks to Charlotte's Library!) is speculative fiction, Wednesday is #WeNeedDiverseBooks, Thursday is mystery, Friday is Guy Friday (and there's a history there that is responsible for my entire blog, so if you have a problem with it, keep it to yourself!), Saturday is Saturday Morning Cartoons, and Sunday is usually an assortment of things that skew toward female and young adult readers. It's not set in stone, but fairly reliable if you have a certain interest.

All the books are due tomorrow, so today might officially be my least favorite day of the year!
Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I've certainly noticed your weekly themed posts, I'm partial to Tuesdays :) but certainly read all of them. I'm trying to get ahead on some posts of books from Edelweiss coming out later, while reading some of my TBR pile in between. It's fun to know that I have some posts scheduled. Good luck with all your returns, hope you have some volunteer help.