Bluebird signs 'unforgettable' memoir of Olympic Syrian refugee

Bluebird signs 'unforgettable' memoir of Olympic Syrian refugee

Pan Macmillan imprint Bluebird is to publish the autobiography of 19-year-old Yusra Mardini, the Olympic Syrian refugee who swam for three hours to push a sinking boat that was carrying 20 people to safety.

Talented swimmers, 14-year-old Mardini and her older sister Sarah were prompted to escape their native Syria when a bomb ripped off the roof of the Damascus pool they trained in, killing a number of their fellow athletes. Together, they made the journey to Turkey and were eventually crammed with 18 others onto an inflatable dinghy built for just eight people, to make the journey across to Lesbos. But 15 minutes into the crossing, the engine died and water began seeping into the boat. The sisters, together with two others leapt into the sea, and swam the hours-long journey to safety, pulling the boat and their fellow passengers to shore.

A spokesperson for Bluebird said: "That is just the beginning of this utterly unforgettable story of family, unimaginable peril, extraordinary bravery, and passion for finding a way to keep doing the one thing you love. As Yusra enters the Olympic stadium, her team-mate Rose waves the flag and Yusra thinks about the other Refugee team members, and how important it is, in these times, to be representing everyone without a home."

At 19 years old, Mardin is a UN Goodwill Ambassador that lives in Berlin. She was named one of People magazine’s 25 women changing the world, and as one of Time magazine’s 30 most influential teens of 2016.

The publishing group Droemer Knaur, Munich, secured world rights to the as-yet-untitled book through the literary agency Michael Meller, together with Bluebird/Macmillan in the UK and St Martins Press/Macmillan in the US. Mardini’s autobiography will appear simultaneously in these three countries in Spring 2018 and in other additional languages.

Mardini said: "I am eager to continue spreading the message that refugees are just normal people living through traumatic and devastating circumstances, who are capable of extraordinary things if only given a chance. I am proud to use my voice to support UNHCR."

According to Mardini’s manager, Marc Heinkelein of StageField Management, the aim was to "find a strong partner in the book sector who could not only guarantee high quality, but also worldwide publication of Yusra’s extraordinary story. We are delighted to have found such a partner with the publishing group Droemer Knaur."

Margit Ketterle, publishing director non-fiction at Droemer Knaur, added: "We are extremely proud to be able to publish the story of this impressive fighter. Yusra Mardini stands for the hope and will of the refugees to build a life in safety and freedom."

Carole Tonkinson, publisher at Bluebird, said Mardini's "remarkable" courage and determination make her an "inspiration to us all and a role model for young people around the globe".

Mardini’s life story is being made into a film by the British production company Working Title Films, directed by Stephen Daldry, who worked on "Billy Elliot", "The Hours", "The Reader". The film is due to appear in cinemas at the end of 2018.

The as-yet-untitled book will be published in the UK on 22nd March 2018.