We Never Give Up {Book Club}

I am a crier—the tears will inevitably flow when I have to give those final hugs at the airport (whether I’m the one leaving or not), or when a graduate walks across the stage. I cry when I hear beautiful music and when I pour my heart out to the Lord in my journal.

I’m also very sentimental when it comes to sports. I know, it’s a little weird.

Don’t get me started on how much I love the Olympics and how many times I’ve bawled my eyes out while cheering for the underdog or the favorite, or when the team from the United States enters during the Opening Ceremonies.

So did I get emotional reading Yusra’s description of walking in with the Refugee Olympic team at the 2016 Games in Brazil? Yes, yes I did.

Yusra remembers, “I’m in my living room in Daraya, vowing to make it to the top. I’m staring in horror at the bomb in the pool. I’m diving into the sea, desperate prayers ringing in my ears. I’m falling asleep in a Hungarian prison. I’m pushing myself harder than ever in the pool in Berlin.” What a journey for Yusra, her family, the others on the Refugee Olympic team.

Over and over Yusra has opportunities to use her voice, her story, to speak on behalf of other refugees. While my life has been nothing like Yusra’s (I have not experienced the horrors of war and leaving my home, nor have I been to the Olympics), it was reminder to me to speak out when I have the chance. I can share my perspective and be an advocate.

A few details, in case you are curious! Yusra didn’t talk much about her race in the book. She won her heat in the 100m butterfly but didn’t qualify for the semi-finals.

Yusra is also part of the Refugee Olympic Team for the Tokyo Games! She had the privilege of serving as one of the Refugee Team’s flagbearers, and I cheered for her as I watched the Opening Ceremony.

I’ve added some different interviews, articles and other resources below if you want to check out more of Yusra’s story!

I’d love to know what you thought about the ending of the book. Any big takeaways from Yusra’s story?

Recommended Resources

Conversation between Yusra and US swimmer Katie Ledecky

Yusra’s sister Sara was arrested in Greece in 2018, and More about her story

Yusra and Sara on the Worldwide Tribe podcast

Enjoy Butterfly? You might also like these books about Olympic athletes:

The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Gold by Julie Checkoway

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Rome 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss

Next Month’s Book

In August we will be reading These Nameless Things by Shawn Smucker! Here’s a summary of the book:

Before Dan opened his door to find a wounded woman who had escaped from the tormentors in the mountain, his life had become rather quiet. He and the eight other people in the mostly abandoned town had become friends. They spent peaceful evenings around the campfire and even made vague plans to journey east one day and leave the ominous mountain behind.

But the woman’s arrival changes everything. 
Who is she? How does she know so much about Dan’s brother, who is still held captive in the mountain? Why are long-forgotten memories rising to the surface? And why does Dan feel so compelled to keep her presence in his house a secret?

Visionary writer Shawn Smucker is back with an unsettling story that invites us to consider two challenging questions: To what lengths will we go to assuage our own guilt? and Is there a limit to the things we will do for the people we love?

Reading schedule:

August 3: Prologue, Chapters 1-7

August 10: Chapters 8-15

August 17: Chapters 16-22

August 24: Chapters 23-30

August 31: No Book Club, learn about the next session of Connection Groups

Click on the button above to learn more and register!


  1. Rachel Kahindi July 29, 2021

    When Yusra mentioned her VISA commercial in the book, I had to look it up on YouTube, and I got a bit misty eyed watching it.

    I really loved this book. It was so much more than I expected. I actually thought it would be more about Olympics, and it was more about the war, seeking asylum, and that whole process – what refugees experience just to find a safe place to live. One of the most meaningful parts to me was the moment that Yusra realized that her role was not just to swim at the Olympics but to be a voice for refugees, when she decided to do as many interviews as possible in Rio.

  2. Michelle Kiprop August 3, 2021

    Loved it! So glad I was able to make time to read along with you. I think my biggest takeaway was how each individual has their own story. and I loved how she shared about the challenges of refugee status, but also how so many individuals like Sven stepped up to help with no agenda for personal gain.

    One of my favorite quotes was “People often ask me if I am the girl who pulled the boat, but it wasn’t like that. Only super woman could pull a boat full of people. I know these are dark times and people want heroes. But I’m just an ordinary girl. A swimmer. I had a normal life before the war. I never dreamt of being a hero. But now, after the Olympics, I have a voice, I have a mission. I want to inspire people and I want to show people who refugees really are.”

    I did find her Instagram account and got to see the clip of her carrying the flag for the refugee team in Tokyo. I was so excited to be able to feel a bit more connected with her story. Thanks for the note Rachel about looking at the visa commercial. I looked it up and shared it with my family. I’ve been telling them about about the book as I was reading it. It does look like there is a Netflix movie being filmed as well.

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