MTYT: Other Words For Home

Mary L. Fahrenbruck and Violet Henderson, New Mexico State University, NM

In the third installment Mary Fahrenbruck and Violet Henderson provide their take on Other Words for Home authored by Jasmine Warga, named a 2020 Newbery Honor Book.

VIOLET: Written in free verse, Warga seamlessly weaves this coming-of-age story through the eyes of a young protagonist named Jude. Along with her expectant mother, Jude must leave her beloved father, brother, best friend, and homeland of Syria behind to start a new life in the United States. Through Jude’s voice, I experienced the metaphor so brilliantly developed in an article by Rudine Sims Bishop where books serve as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. This book served as a window, where I learned about another world and culture different from my own. It served as a mirror where reflected was the American culture, I am also acculturated by, through the eyes of someone else. The sliding glass door enabled me to enter Jude’s world to better understand her and her family’s lived experiences in their homeland and here in the United States.

MARY: Well said, Violet, especially about the sliding glass doors! I think readers of this novel will learn so much about the refugee crisis in Syria. In my opinion, many Americans, young and old, lack understanding about the reasons why refugees are fleeing their countries. Reading Jude’s inner most thoughts about moving to Cincinnati, leaving her life as she knows it behind, provides a counternarrative for readers to consider. Jude loves Syria as much as I love the United States. She hopes to return to Syria someday and resume her life as she knew it. The word “resilient” comes to mind when I think about Jude and her family. I can’t imagine what it would be like for me to have to adapt to new ways of being and of interacting with others through language, culture, food, etc. I hope I would be as resilient as Jude.

VIOLET: Exactly, Mary! This is such a relevant and timely book to introduce to middle school-aged readers and older because of the many critical themes that emerge, such as resiliency, identity, Islamophobia. I also found myself interested in Jude’s experiences at school, especially her math and ESL classes. I became curious about her view of her teachers and their pedagogy as it related to her as an Emergent Bilingual student. I am such a fan of Jude and found myself feeling her emotions and cheering her on. I admired her strength and, yes, most definitely her resiliency. She followed her heart and proved to herself and others that she is more than just a label. She is an intelligent, strong, poised, talented young girl with ambition and dreams of her own. I hope by providing our take on Other Words for Home, WOW readers will pick up this this book and discover their own mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors within.

Title: Other Words For Home
Author: Jasmine Warga
ISBN: 978-0062747808
Publisher: Blazer + Bray
PubDate: May 28, 2019

2020 Newbery Honor Award

Throughout April 2020, Mary and Violet give their take on books that have won awards or honors this year. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!

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