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
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.
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.
- 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.
A very timely, inspirational, and gripping must-read nonfiction – for young adults, and adults as well.
Get It Here
Book Depository || BookShop || IndieBound
You can read an excerpt of the book here.
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”
Sounds like a lovely and inspiring story.
it is certainly that Karen…
Looks like a book worth its weight in thought and meaning. Thanks for sharing.
it is certainly that.. thanks Kate
This is a book I’ll purchase for my grandson.
And I am sure he will love it..
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.
Tasha, it has its tough moments but totally worth reading
Being a cat lady, this sounds extremely appealing to me!
you should read it DJ
This sounds like a very interesting book that could be an excellent period piece. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
it is a wonderful read.. thanks Len
I work with high schoolers and this would be great to have in my classroom library. Thank you for sharing!
oh yes, this will be a wonderful addition for highschool libraries
The title is really catchy
and a wonderful read too
Wow, this looks so good. Another book to add to my TBR.
you will love it Kate…
I always love your book reviews! They help me so much when it is my turn to pick a book for my book club!
so glad you can use these Bri… this is certainly a great pick for a book club read.. so much to discuss and take action on as well
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
thanks Shahira, this is the first book I read about this war too and now I am going to look for others since there is so much I didn’t know
This sounds really beautiful. I’ve never heard of the book before. Thanks for sharing.
thanks Stacey.. i am sure you will love this book
This sounds like quite a touching story with a lot of great elements. I would be interested to check this out.
it is that..
I would love to read this. It sounds so important and emotional.
do check it out
I love that this book highlights on the need for people to improve — Humanity as a whole. Improve yourself little by little
yes.. this book does do that.. simply by reading it itself
I like this review. You always get the interesting books.
I am deeply grateful for your incredibly touching and thoughtful review of my book.
Amra, thank you for reading my review of your wonderful book..
And thank you for writing your story
This is such a beautiful story. I would love to read it.
thanks Marjie, this is a wonderful read indeed
This was new to me. Thanks a lot for sharing