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

By: Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

Laura L. Sullivan

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.

This is the story of a teen who, even in the brutality of war, never wavered in her determination to obtain education, maintain friendships, and even find a first love—and the cat that provided comfort, and maybe even served as a guardian spirit, in the darkest of times.

ISBN: 9781547604531

JLG Release: Oct 2020


Sensitive Areas: Violence: Mild Violence , Violence: Genocide , Discrimination: Religious , Sexual Content: Sexual Harassment
Topics:

Yugoslav War (1991–1995) , Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Ethnic relations , Family life , Cats , Siege of Bihac, 1992–1995 , History of Yugoslavia, 1992–2003 , Islam , Bosnian genocide

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Awards & Honors

2021 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist

Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Horn Book

This suspenseful memoir, set between 1992 and 1998, opens just before the author’s northwestern Bosnian town of Bihać is changed by war. Serbians (who’ve had warning) evacuate overnight, schools and businesses abruptly close, and the town’s remaining Muslim population is under siege by Serbian soldiers. Amidst this turmoil, a stray calico ca This suspenseful memoir, set between 1992 and 1998, opens just before the author’s northwestern Bosnian town of Bihać is changed by war. Serbians (who’ve had warning) evacuate overnight, schools and businesses abruptly close, and the town’s remaining Muslim population is under siege by Serbian soldiers. Amidst this turmoil, a stray calico cat follows sixteen-year-old Amra home. Amra calls the stray Maci, the Bosnian word for cat, and the cat comforts and even, in a sense, protects Amra: for instance, because she chases Maci on the way home from school, Amra avoids a sniper attack. Amra comes to believe the cat is a guardian angel or benevolent spirit. She details her family’s gradual decline as they endure poverty and malnutrition under siege for three years, and her eventual move to the U.S. on an academic scholarship. Though she never shies away from difficult topics such as the threat of rape, feeling forgotten by the international community, or post-war corruption, she always brings the story back to Maci, a metaphor for love that “never dies” and “withstands distance and time.” This fast-paced, touching memoir reminds readers of the significance of the Balkan ethnic war, and places it into a larger conversation about the ways in which ethnically and religiously diverse societies are under threat from extremism and bigotry. An author’s note and resource list encourage further engagement. JULIE HAKIM AZZAM

Book Details

ISBN

9781547604531

First Release

October 2020

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

B

Trim Size

9" x 6"

Page Count

352

Accelerated Reader

N/A

Scholastic Reading Counts

N/A

Lexile

N/A

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Bloomsbury USA

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Violence: Mild Violence , Violence: Genocide , Discrimination: Religious , Sexual Content: Sexual Harassment

Topics

Yugoslav War (1991–1995), Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ethnic relations, Family life, Cats, Siege of Bihac, 1992–1995, History of Yugoslavia, 1992–2003, Islam, Bosnian genocide,

Standard MARC Record

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Cover Art

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Book Genres

Memoir

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