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Review of The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival

Today’s featured book is one that is still fresh in my memory from the time I first read it in November last year; it left a strong impact on me, in so many ways – from the teen-me (I was a teen when the events in the book occurred) to the me today (the mom, the reader, the global citizen I try to be, and well, just plain me). The book is titled The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival; and is at once a lovely tribute to education and a heart-rending memoir of the impact of war on humanity.

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The Book Review

The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival

Book Info

Book Review: The Cat I Never Named

Title: The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival
Author: Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura Sullivan
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Children’s Nonfiction/Biography (13 – 17 years, and up)
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA (September 8, 2020))
Source: ebook from the Publishers for the Cybils

What It Is(from Goodreads)

The stunning memoir of a Muslim teen struggling to survive the Bosnian genocide–and the stray cat who protected her family through it all.

Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when her friend said they couldn’t speak anymore because Amra was Muslim. Then refugees from other cities started arriving, fleeing Serbian persecution. When Serbian tanks rolled into Bihac, the life she knew disappeared—right as a stray cat followed her home. Her family didn’t have the money to keep a pet, but after the cat seemed to save her brother, how could they turn it away? Saving a life one time could be a coincidence, but then it happened again—and Amra and her family wondered just what this cat was.

My Thoughts

The Cat I Never Named is a book that packs a punch. A heartfelt, no-holds-barred memoir of events during the Bosnian civil war where the author and her family have many close calls with the horrors of war as the Serbs began an ethnic cleansing. But it is more than an accounting of those horrors; it is a story of love, survival, hope, of belief in peace, humanity, and family.

Amra and so many others like her are thrown into a whole new world almost overnight, into a world where they are persecuted because of their faith, and those who they knew as friends and neighbors abandon them completely. In the midst of all this was the titular cat who serves as a source of comfort and hope through the ensuing years of war.

This book is both a heartrending individual memoir of a teenager struggling to be one in horrific times, and a honest accounting of the Bosnian genocide, politics, and discrimination. Readers witness through Amra’s strong narrative just how dangerous hatred and discrimination based on race, religion, or ethnicity can be; and also learn how events like this bring out both the best and worst in humans.

Side Notes

  • This book is one of the finalists for the Cybils Awards Nonfiction High School category; and deservedly so.
  • The ‘My Thoughts’ above is what I wrote for The Cat I Never Named for the finalists announcement post on the Cybils website. While I can expound further, and rave longer about this powerful book that will surely impact each of its readers, I decided to leave it with those words I first wrote about it. Else this review post would have been way longer than this… but…
And then again, I do recall wanting to mention:
  • how the author’s relationship with her family, especially her father, totally tugged at my heartstrings throughout.
  • that this book is certainly a difficult read, but one that deserves to be read; both for the fact that it is wonderfully written, and more importantly, that it is about events in recent history that not enough people know more about (including me)
  • how I felt that while Amra was going through all of this in Bosnia as a teen, I was leading a teenage life as well; the difference being that mine was certainly an idyllic one, where finishing high school with good grades and getting into the college of my choice were my only worries (and not too worrisome at that). And this was while she and her classmates had to face war and so many more obstacles just to get their education. That certainly raised a lot of questions in me, for the teenage me, and for me today, to ponder and answer. Hard questions, each one.
  • that reading this book definitely made me realize that, as humanity, we still have to improve upon ourselves – especially, the humane part.


Just a tiny, tiny bit of the too many quotes I ended up with

  • “One day this will be over. We’ll all go back to being just people again. Make sure you haven’t forgotten your humanity by then.”
  • Even when death rains down from the skies, there is life in the earth.
  • I curl against my Tata, clinging to him, remembering how when I was a little girl he used to make me feel safe. My big strong Tata! Now he’s stooped and fragile, with failing eyesight. Yet somehow he still makes me feel safe. His body might be growing frail, but his love is more powerful than ever. It sustains me.

In Summary

A very timely, inspirational, and gripping must-read nonfiction – for young adults, and adults as well.

Get It Here

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You can read an excerpt of the book here.

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Book Review: The Cat I Never Named

And Now, the End of This Post

Dear reader, have you read this book? If yes, as always, would love to hear your thoughts on the same. If not, have you read any other books about this war and the issues portrayed in this book? I would love to hear your recommendations.

And as always, any and all comments and suggestions are welcome.

38 thoughts on “Review of The Cat I Never Named : A True Story of Love, War, and Survival

  1. I was in my late teens when this war began and the feelings of horror and sadness stayed with me. I would be interested in this story but would need to be tougher than I am to actually read it. It sounds like a great, emotive book.

  2. I have bookmarked this page and will keep this book on my to-read list. I have never read anything about the Bosnian war though I remember seeing it in on TV in 1995 I was probably 7 or 8 then but I still remember the sad pictures

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