I am learning how to be
at the same time.
Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.
At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.
CW: Islamophobia, War, Hate Crime Depiction, Racism
Thoughts and Themes: I had seen this book around but just hadn’t had the time to pick it up yet. I was glad to find it in the library when I was looking for quick reads to get through over the holiday break.
This book covers several different themes, it covers coming of age, family, friendship, belonging, as well as discrimination of immigrants from specific cultures and countries.
I really liked the way that this book covered coming of age for Jude and showed her trying to hold on to her old home, country, and culture but also fit in with her new culture. I thought that it was great that we got to see directly how she felt about both cultures and the way she reacts to others’ reactions to her holding onto her culture and home country.
Characters: In this story you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Jude. You get to meet her uncle, his wife, her cousin Sarah, her friend Layla, her mom, her dad, her brother Issa, and more. I really liked each of the characters that you get to meet in this story and the role that they play in Jude’s life.
I liked getting to see the differences with Jude and her cousin. I thought it was nice for the reader to be able to see the same culture represented in two different ways through both of these characters. I think this also showed the forced assimilation of Jude’s uncle and how much he had to let go of in order to fit into his new culture. We don’t get to see or hear much about why he let go of his culture but you can see when he interacts with his sister that he still holds to his home.
I also really enjoyed getting to see Jude interacting with her new friend Layla as well as the other children in her ESL classroom. I liked how Layla’s family embraced Jude and how Layla pointed out how Jude didn’t really understand what it was like to be Muslim in America. It was sad to see the moment that Jude realized what Layla had been trying to tell her the whole time.
Writing Style: This story is told in verse through the first person point of view of Jude, who had to flee Syria with her mother due to the situation that was stirring in her country. In leaving Syria, Jude had to leave her father, brother, and several friends behind.
Jasmine Warga is a writer from Cincinnati, Ohio who currently resides in Chicago, Illinois. She is the internationally bestselling author of My Heart and Other Black Holes and Here We Are Now. Her books have been published in over twenty-five countries and optioned for film. Her debut middle grade novel, Other Words For Home, will be published in Spring 2019. Jasmine lives in an apartment filled with books with her husband, two tiny daughters, large dog, and mischievous cat.