Five Reasons To Read: Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga – A Stunning Story-In-Verse About Immigrating, Finding Yourself, and Being Muslim in America

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga.

Blurb:

I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
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’s Review:

Have you ever read a book that made you just… roll in bed after finishing it, the book clutched to your chest, and just sighed deeply because the book was so achingly beautiful and hopeful? Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga is such a book, and it is one of my favourite books of 2019.

Told entirely in verse, Other Words for Home is a middle-grade book that follows Jude, a Muslim Syrian girl who, with her mother, escapes to America when things at home in Syria grow tense, violent, and uncertain. Separated from her beloved father and brother, this thoughtful story reflects on the changes in her life, on being apart from the ones you love and the ache of separation. However, it is also an emotional story about regrowing your roots finding yourself, and finding hope.

I firmly believe that everyone should read this book – even if you don’t read middle-grade, even if you don’t read books in verse. But, just in case you need some convincing, here are five reasons why I think you should read Other Words for Home.

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Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay – A Timely and Unforgettable Story about the Phillipine Drug War, Privilege, and Hope

Book review: Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. A badge at the bottom-left that says, 'Reviewed by CW, The Quiet Pond'. In the centre is a image of Xiaolong, the pink axolotl wearing a flower hat, waving at you.

Blurb:

Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his Filipino cousin Jun was murdered as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story.

Hoping to uncover more about Jun and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole horrible truth — and the part he played in it.

CW’s Review:

When some of my favourite Filipino bloggers hyped up this book and sung its praises, I was intrigued. When JM hosted the blog tour for Patron Saints of Nothing, and I read the powerful and personal book reviews by Filipino bloggers, I knew that Patron Saints of Nothing would be the kind of book that you just could not miss. And if there is any book that I want you to pick up based on my, and many other amazing Filipino bloggers’ recommendations (I’ve linked a bunch of reviews that you must read at the end of this review!), you should read Patron Saints of Nothing.

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Book Recommendations: Historical Fiction About ‘Invisible’ Moments in History

Book Recommendations with Varian: Historical Fiction and invisible histories. Illustration of Varian the toad, dressed up as a 13th Doctor from Doctor Who.

Welcome back to the Pond and welcome to another one of Varian’s recommendation posts! In case you’re new to the Pond’s recommendation posts, the recommendation posts are brought to you by Varian, the Pond’s very own Toadshifter who is knowledgeable in all kinds of magic! One of Varian’s ambitions is to get better at sewing, hence why whenever Varian has shown you their latest costume, they will always recommend a book that inspired that costume.

A genre that I don’t usually talk about – but actually consistently enjoy reading – is historical fiction! I’ve never consider myself a history nerd but there’s something so incredible and amazing when you learn about something that actually happened. (And indeed, one of my favourite things to do after reading historical fiction based on real events is to go and research it extensively and then tell everyone that I know about it.)

Even more special to me, is when I learn about a piece of history that not a lot of people know about. It makes me think: if this author hadn’t written this book and I hadn’t read it, I would never have known about it and others may never have known about it. And I think that can be an exceptionally humbling thought. That’s why, today’s book recommendation post is dedicated to historical fiction books that centre on an ‘invisible’ piece of history.

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Five Reasons To Read: A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai – A Wholesome Story About Matchmaking, Desi Identity, and Friendship

A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai.

Blurb:

Fifteen-year-old Simran “Simi” Sangha comes from a long line of Indian vichole-matchmakers-with a rich history for helping parents find good matches for their grown children. When Simi accidentally sets up her cousin and a soon-to-be lawyer, her family is thrilled that she has the “gift.”

But Simi is an artist, and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with relationships, helicopter parents, and family drama. That is, until she realizes this might be just the thing to improve her and her best friend Noah’s social status. Armed with her family’s ancient guide to finding love, Simi starts a matchmaking service-via an app, of course.

But when she helps connect a wallflower of a girl with the star of the boys’ soccer team, she turns the high school hierarchy topsy-turvy, soon making herself public enemy number one.

CW’s review:

When I learned about A Match Made in Mehendi earlier this year, learned that it was about an Indian-American teen and that the story would be about matchmaking and love? I knew I had to read it. And after reading a string of fantastic diverse young-adult contemporaries, I’ve unofficially dubbed this year as ‘The Year of Diverse YA Contemporaries’ – and A Match Made in Mehendi is perhaps the hidden gem in YA contemporary.

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Five Reasons To Read: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo – A Heart-Warming Story About Being a Teenager, a Mother and the Magic of Food

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Blurb:

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions—doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

CW’s review:

When the world tells you that Elizabeth Acevedo, author of the stunning and revolutionary novel-in-verse The Poet X, has written another book called With the Fire on High and that it is as incredible as her first book? You read it – because not only is With the Fire on High indisputably fantastic but, if you read it, you will definitely thank yourself for it later.

Told with Acevedo’s heart-warming and soulful prose, With the Fire on High follows Emoni, an Afro-Puerto-Rican teen and mother, and how she wrestles with being a mum, being a teen, daring to follow her dreams to become a culinary chef, and the weight of responsibilities to be and do all of the above at once.

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