This Book Reminds Us of the Struggle to Define “Home”

“Home:” 1) the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household; 2) relating to the place where one lives; 3) everywhere and nowhere.

Out of all the definitions and words for “home,” we struggle to pinpoint where home is. We, the wandering souls of immigrants, were forced to leave “home” in search of another. We, the displaced and lost, spent sleepless nights wondering, “When will I be home again?” Our “homes” suffered at the hands of political crises, by power-hungry, gun-wielding men in ties and turbans alike. For some of us, endless wars forced us to chase safety and leave the places we once believed would allow us to live in peace. By definition, if you cannot live there, it’s not home — or is it?

These are the themes strung throughout Jasmine Warga‘s new book, “Other Words for Home.” With each page, the experiences of a young girl’s journey as a Muslim Syrian refugee come to life. The telling of her journey spectacularly navigates the complex notion of home and belonging. The entire book features a contemporary Muslim family attempting to navigate normal family dilemmas with the added caveat of living in a war-torn country, and immigrating for safety.

I remember the day I left home as though it was yesterday. The plane felt crowded, filled to the brim with people and their stories. I couldn’t help but wonder if they, too, were leaving behind a “home.” My heart raced as the plane took off; I never knew if I’d return to Egypt — if I’d ever make it back home. Fast forward a decade, and I find myself calling Egypt and the U.S. home. It took time and emotional growth to find pockets of people in both countries that inspired me to live my truth and become me. The experience taught me that home isn’t defined by borders. Home is where you feel most-loved and most in-tune with your authentic nature.

Written completely in verse, “Other Words for Home” weaves together profound concepts and stories about growing up, immigrating, and finding yourself in a world bent on stifling your nature.

Jasmine takes us on a journey with her main character, Jude, to navigate profound concepts and stories about growing up, immigrating, and finding yourself in a world bent on stifling your nature. It’s safe to say that throughout the novel, author Jasmine Warga eloquently juxtaposes universal coming-of-age moments with the devastating realities of life as a refugee, making for an authentic telling of an often hidden truth. It’s a great book to read if you’re a fan of similar works by Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed.

As a Muslim immigrant woman, it took no more than a few chapters for my eyes to fill with tears. Having a front row seat to Jude’s internal battle with leaving behind a family, and then coming to a land that ostracized her, brought me back to a younger me; a more vulnerable, scared, and raw me. Moving to the U.S. was beyond my control, and while I knew it would be for the better, there always remained a pit where my heart and home used to be. Jude’s forced immigration to the U.S. strikingly mimicked the emotions and truth woven into the fabric of a young immigrant girl’s life.

To all those who left loved ones behind in search for safety, and to those who watched home turn its back on them, “Other Words for Home” is a must-read. To any little girl fighting to find strength to embrace her faith and her authenticity, “Other Words for Home” is a strong guide. It speaks the narrative of family torn apart by powers greater than themselves and can help those whose good fortune spared them from living Jude’s life to better  understand and connect with the experience. Because no matter our background, our lived experiences, or our faiths, we will all find a piece of home on Jude’s journey.

For more from author Jasmine Warga, check out her Twitter and Instagram accounts. Don’t forget to check out Jasmine’s latest novel, “Other Word for Home,” coming to bookstore near you on May 28th, 2019. This is sponsored content.