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Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  1,677 ratings  ·  261 reviews
The inspiring story of how one woman saved fellow refugees from drowning--and how she went on to become an Olympic swimmer.

When young Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini realized her boat's engine shut down as she was traveling from Syria to Greece with other refugees, there was no hesitation: she dove into the water. Surfacing, she heard desperate prayers and sobbing from the pa
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 3rd 2018 by Pan MacMillan
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6 It's perfect for teens. To open their eyes, to see new perspectives, to learn how to rise from despair. I am buying this book for my 15-year-old. …moreIt's perfect for teens. To open their eyes, to see new perspectives, to learn how to rise from despair. I am buying this book for my 15-year-old. (less)

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Lucy Langford
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it

Refugee. An empty shell, barely even human. No money, no home, no background, no history, no personality, no ambition... Our past, present, future. All of it deleted and replaced by one devastating word.

I was completely captured and fascinated by Yusra Mardini's story back in 2016 when it was announced that there would be a refugee team for the Olympics in Rio. Like many people, I was curious as to who is this incredible young girl!? I was fully invested in discovering more about this young g
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Overall: An inspiring true story of determination, survival, and love. Ysura is a young refugee from Syria who goes on to become an Olympic swimmer. This story is inspiring, will bring you to tears, and will open your eyes to many of the issues surrounding refugees 8/10 or 4/5

Summary: Yusra Mardini is a teenager when she and her sister escape from Syria. They help get a boat filled with refugees across the ocean, travel to Germany, and start a new life which ultimately leads to Ysura going to th
Stephanie Jane
May 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits

I was almost in tears at the culmination of this inspirational memoir! Mardini's story of determination, survival, and the kindness of strangers is one that certainly does need to be shared widely around the world. I found the contrast between the cheering crowds for the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio and the hate-filled rhetoric for refugees generally in Britain to be a sad indictment of my country. Two years after the Rio Olympics, there is st
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What every woman knows (woman, because I am a woman but not your idea of it) is that to make their own way, they have to struggle, fight, fight harder than they have ever fought and stand up after falling down. Yusra Mardini is one such woman (even though she is very, very young). I picked up Butterfly by Yusra Mardini on an impulse. Though I was not sure if I was prepared to read a non-fiction, I loved EVERY PAGE OF IT. I do not generally pick up non-fiction books by women who inspire me becaus ...more
I had not heard of Yusra or her boat story prior to seeing this book at my library. But I was a swimmer in high school and I wanted to know more about the refugee experience so I picked it up. Yusra is very real and down to earth in her story I felt like it could be any young girl's story she was telling which as she makes clear at the end is the part of the message she is trying to get out, that refugees are just people who have had unfortunate things happen in their lives and who want to achie ...more
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a heartbreaking and touching book! I picked this book up because I wanted to know more about the refugee crisis and the journey they have to make, and it did not disappoint. I am not the biggest fan of the writing style though. Sometimes various flashbacks to Damascus or bombings are incorporated into the book, and while I totally agree that they add something to the story, it is not always clear when Yusra observing “normal” life morphs into Yusra having a flashback. Other than that, this ...more
Nov 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This book. This story. What this young woman and her family went through, what countless people have gone through, are going through and sadly, will be going through, is nothing short of amazing. This book is SO timely and is important for all people to read, think on and act on.

I don't want to try to speak for this book, other than to say, please, READ it. Share it with others and let it inspire you to act. Whether it's writing a letter to a politician, giving money to a charity that helps ref
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a powerful memoir that the world needs right now. Yusra Mardini was a young girl living in Syria in 2015 as her home and city are ripped apart from the war. She wants nothing more than to become a swimmer for her country in the Olympics but when the bombs finally make their way into her training pool, she decides that she must leave her home if she ever wants her swimming dreams to come true. Yusra and her sister Sara decide to flee the country with cousins, while leaving her parents and yo ...more
Yusra is the middle sister of three daughters living with their parents in Damascus. Their father is a swimming coach, obsessed with training his two eldest girls to excel. Being in the pool is one of their first memories and being pushed to succeed an ordinary part of childhood, as habitual as their going to school.

Not everyone in the community approves of the girls swimming, it clashes with tradition, despite the diversity that exists.
A lot of people don't understand about us swimming. They do
I’m still in awe, Yusra is such a remarkable person. Her determination, courage, ambition and pride are absolutely impressive and her message is so vitally important, it should reach every single person on earth. Being a refugee is not a choice. The difference between you and someone fleeing their home is luck and a safe home country. You do not lose your humanity and history when you lose your home.

I would definitely recommend this book. Yusra’s and Sara’s story is impressive, moving and will
Yusra Mardini and her sister Sara are two of the bravest people I've ever read about. They had to leave their lives in Syria when their home became a warzone, and paid smugglers to help them get to Europe so they could seek asylum. The extortionate fee bought them passage on a glorified dinghy that was so overcrowded it took on water in the rough waves. Somewhere between Turkey and Greece, the engine died. They desperately called the coastguard, who told them to go back to Turkey. The teenage si ...more
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Butterfly is a touching and inspiring memoir of determination, strength, courage and selflessness. Mardini tells the story of her and her family’s experience living in and eventually fleeing from war-torn Syria, and her continual dedication to her dream of becoming an Olympic athlete.

Refreshingly honest and heartfelt, Mardini’s writing style and outlook was befitting her age and experience. Though some elements felt like they were told from a more neutral rather than a deeply emotive or reflecti
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Memoirs by Women; Anyone Who Wants to Learn More About Refugees
Recommended to Julianna by: Our Shared Shelf
Reviewed for THC Reviews
Butterfly was brought to my attention by Emma Watson’s GoodReads group, Our Shared Shelf. I, in turn, shared it with my book club and it was chosen as our latest read. It’s an inspiring memoir of a Syrian young woman who undertook a harrowing journey from her war-torn country to Germany in hopes of a better life and the opportunity to continue her swimming training and someday become an Olympian. Ms. Mardini grew up in what appears to have been a normal middle-class famil
Esme Kemp
Dec 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous Yusra. Teaching us humanity and human kindness, in a world where refugees are treated like animals or hardened criminals.
The UK Home Secretary should take a long hard look in the mirror as she writes inhumane immigration policies.
Hege Kristine
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The term refugee is often an empty shell which instantly deletes and replaces someone’s past, present and future. However, we often forget that refugees are just as human as you and I. Yusra Mardini’s story is a truly worthwhile read for athletes and non-athletes alike! I’m left with a wave of emotions as I read one of the biography’s final sentence: “I don’t believe the secret to being happy is living life free of problems. It’s about being able to smile despite the hardships”.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: may, a2, macmillan, 2018
Not at all my usual style of book, and I'll be honest; not following sports at all, I'd never heard of Yusra. If I hadn't been offered this one I probably wouldn't have picked it. It's an interesting read, though, written in a way that makes it clear how young she was when she crossed borders. It would work well in a classroom setting when talking about war or refugees.

Receiving an ARC did not affect my review in any way.
Pam Walter
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Yusra Mardini couldn't have chosen a more apropos title for her book. "Butterfly".

"Butterfly" - Butterflies are often polymorphic, and many species make use of camouflage, mimicry and aposematism to evade their predators. Some, like the monarch and the painted lady, migrate over long distances. Many butterflies are attacked by parasites or parasitoids, including wasps, protozoans, flies, and other invertebrates, or are preyed upon by other organisms.

"Butterfly" - is a swimming stroke swum on th
Annette Jordan
A powerful and incredibly moving story about one young woman's determination to achieve her dream of swimming at the Olympics, despite having to flee her home in Syria at the age of seventeen. Yusra Mardini dreamed of being an Olympian from a young age. Together with her older sister, and under the coaching of her father she began training at a local swimming club.. Determined and focused, she trained daily after school , and eventually represented her country at an international level. Unfortun ...more
Corinne Edwards
4.5 stars

Damascus is Yusra's home. It’s where she goes to school, hangs out with her friends and, for her most importantly, where she swims. Pushed by her coaching father, Yusra dreams of making it to the Olympics someday.

Until the Syrian Civil War began.

It's not long before home is no longer safe - suddenly she and her family are caught in the crossfire and death is an actual possibility every day.

So they make a choice. And that choice means that one day Yusra finds herself in an overcrowded i
Amanda Evans
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This is a beautifully written memoir. What Yusra experienced was dreadful, but how she overcame it and achieved what she did was incredible. I was offered and advance copy of this book by the publisher and I’m so glad I chose to accept. I don’t follow sports in general and had never heard of Yusra, but her story is one I’m glad I read. It’s interesting and important. This is a book that needs to be read by all.

We begin the story with Yusra telling the reader about her life in Syria where she sw
Yasmin Rankin
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I would never have picked this book for myself. I had never even heard of Yusra Mardini before I received this in a book subscription box. I am so so glad I received it.

From the moment I picked the book up I was hooked. Right from the moment we’re finding out about Yusra’s normal life in Syria. This book took me through the riots and protests starting, turning into a full blown war. We were told about what it was like to live in a war torn country where you didn’t know if you were going to survi
Tasha Leigh
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
although I would not usually review memoirs or works of literarture, I just have to say that this was an eye opening account inside the events of Syria's crisis. The majority of the world view refugees as those coming from poverty stricken circumstances, pleading for help and starving before they leave their home country. Butterfly gives the reader an insight into just how normal a life can be before war hits.

On multiple occassions, I found myself questioning my own morals and values based upon
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it
My favorite part of this book was the beginning where Yusra tells what life was like in Syria before the civil war. I find that I have a hard time imagining a Middle Eastern country that is prosperous and at peace. Yusra's Syria is beautiful and prosperous. A country with a rich heritage, an ancient history, that has been taking on the modern world just fine thank you very much. Of course, the war puts all of that in jeopardy and damages heritage sites all over Syria. Yusra, and her sister Sarah ...more
Jennifer Stringer
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars maybe? Incredible story, if not brilliant writing. Still, facinating to read about an individual experience of making that harrowing voyage. I admit, I've been one of those westerners that sterotyped the refugee experience as one rooted in abject poverty; and I've read a couple other memoirs in which that is the case. But, as Yusra reminds us over and over, the refugee can be anyone whose homeland is destroyed. I'm glad she had the opportunity to participate in the Olympics under refug ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this as part of Our Shared Shelf book club's read for the summer. Absolutely stunning and I wish Yusra all the best of luck in the world. I hope you will be in Tokyo in 2020 - and with your determination you surely will.

Yusra is young girl from Damascus whose passion is swimming. When the situation in Syria escalates more and more, her sister Sara and herself flee. Both show remarkable strength and determination on their inhumane, traumatic and terrible journey to Germany, where Yusra star
Einas Alhamali
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's not just that it was well-written and inspiring. It also reminded of so many memories that I'd forgotten without even realizing it. It reminded me of what we've been through and what we continue going through every day. So glad I read it. ...more
Emma Canning (Emma's Chapter)
I know these are dark times and people want heroes. But I'm just an ordinary girl. A swimmer

Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph follows the story of Syrian Yusra Mardini as she and her sister left their home country of Syria and took the long and dangerous journey to Germany to seek safe haven for themselves and their family. A journey which eventually took Yusra to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

I am not a reader of non-fiction/memoi
Cristie Underwood
Wow! What a powerful and inspiring memoir! Have your tissues handy when you read this, as you will need them!
Helen Jarecki
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved it and utterly inspiring.
Aug 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, memoirs
I thought this was a nicely written memoir with a touching message!
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Review... 1 5 Jul 06, 2019 10:23AM  

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Yusra and her elder sister fled the Syrian war and set off on a perilous journey to find safety in Europe. In summer 2015, they travelled through Lebanon to Turkey before departing for Greece in an overcrowded dinghy.

Fifteen minutes into the sea crossing, the boat’s engine failed. As a professional swimmer, Yusra was determined not to let any of her fellow passengers drown. Yusra, her sister and

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24 likes · 6 comments
“That´s right. Only a name. A name given to us by circumstances beyond our control. Now we have to reclaim it. [...] "We are still humans", I say. "We are not only refugees. We are like everyone in the world. We can do something, achieve something. We didn´t choose to leave our homelands. We didn´t choose the name refugee. [...]” 3 likes
“La natación es la mejor distracción. Cuando estoy en la piscina nada más parece importar.” 0 likes
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