BUTTERFLY by Yusra Mardini


From Refugee to Olympian—My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph
Email this review


The extraordinary tale of a Syrian woman’s journey from her war-torn country all the way to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

In 2004, at the age of 6, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Mardini watched as American swimmer Michael Phelps won one gold medal after another at the Olympics. From that moment on, she wanted to do the same. It helped that her father was a swimming coach and that he pushed her and her sister, Sara, to swim daily at their local pool in Damascus. “Dad wants us to be the best swimmers. The very best. On earth. Ever,” writes the author. “His expectations are astronomical, and we’re expected to keep up….Dad has us both living like soldiers.” As the years passed, Mardini won numerous competitions. Then the war began, and she and her family were forced to move multiple times to avoid the violence. As teens, the author and her sister fled the country, crossing from Turkey to Greece by sea, where they had to swim in rough seas when the boat engine failed, before making their way to Germany, where Mardini was able to begin training again. In this moving, action-packed first-person account, the author shares the details of her journey from novice swimmer to Olympian. She eloquently describes the physical, emotional, and psychological hardships of leaving her home country and entering a new realm with the label “refugee” on her back. She had very little money and no personal possessions except a few clothes and her phone. Mardini had to endure terror, extreme hunger, and deep despair, but she also celebrates the friendships forged during those moments and the inspiring drive that kept her focused on her childhood goal of being an Olympic swimmer and of being a voice for refugees everywhere.

A rousing, exciting true story of remarkable resilience.

Pub Date: May 22nd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-250-18440-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2018


NonfictionTHE BOY ON THE BEACH by Tima Kurdi
by Tima Kurdi
NonfictionA WOMAN IN THE CROSSFIRE by Samar Yazbek
by Samar Yazbek
by Alia Malek