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Spring 2019 Publishers’ Preview: Five Questions for Jasmine Warga

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the March/April 2019 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Spring 2019 Publishers’ Previews, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a book from its current list. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

Sponsored by
HarperCollins

In Other Words for Home, young teen Jude moves with her mother from volatile Syria to Cincinnati, a place that poses challenges of its own.

Photo: Ashley Sillies.

1. Why did you choose to tell Jude’s story in verse?

In my first prose drafts, I struggled to find Jude’s voice. Then I had a light-bulb moment. Arabic is such a naturally poetic language, and I thought verse might help me overcome my mental block about writing from the perspective of a character who, unlike me, is not a native English speaker. After that, everything clicked into place.

2. Do you think you could move to a new country?

Whenever I daydream about this, I’m aware it’s from a place of immense privilege. I would be moving of my own volition, and in my fantasy I’m set up nicely in terms of housing and other necessities. When I was younger, my father told my brother and me that one of his biggest hopes for us was never to have to know the hardship of being an immigrant. I often think about that, especially now that I’m a parent.

3. Did you have a Mrs. Ravenswood, a teacher who made you feel at home?

I had two. My fifth grade language arts teacher, Mrs. Darling, encouraged me to take pride in my love of reading and writing. And it is impossible to overstate the influence of my high school English teacher, Connie Smith, who fed my spirit as a fledgling writer by introducing me to books and poems that weren’t part of the curriculum but that she somehow knew I needed to read.

4. After publishing two YA novels, what did you have to learn about middle-grade?

So much! About voice, structure — you name it. And I’m still learning.

5. Have you ever been The New Kid?

In eighth grade, my family moved to a different suburb of Cincinnati. 9/11 happened in my first month of school, and I decided — having absorbed lots of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric — that I would hide my cultural background from my classmates. I spent that year mostly keeping to myself and doodling during algebra class, which is why to this day I can’t solve for x.

Sponsored by
HarperCollins

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Comments

  1. Kristin Crouch says:

    I had the privilege of reading this book, and it is wonderful, meaningful, and necessary.
    Great interview!

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