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Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American…
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Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town (2009)

by Warren St. John

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6849320,403 (3.88)48
  1. 00
    Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil by Deborah Rodriguez (elbakerone)
    elbakerone: Both these books tell powerful and inspirational stories about women making drastic differences in the lives of others.
  2. 00
    A Home on the Field: How One Championship Soccer Team Inspires Hope for the Revival of Small Town America by Paul Cuadros (Othemts)
  3. 00
    What Is the What by Dave Eggers (elbakerone)
    elbakerone: Another great book about refugee life in America.
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» See also 48 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
"...it is also a story about the challenges facing resettled refugees in this country. More than 900,000 have been admitted to the United States since 1993, and their presence seems to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others." NYTimes article, January 2007

The subtitle is perhaps grander than the story: the soccer team (actually three teams, divided by age) is indeed made up of refugees from all over, who have been resettled in Clarkston, Georgia, but they remain separate from the town's mostly white population, and have to fight even to use town fields. Coach Luma, a Jordanian immigrant herself, is tough on the kids but helps their families. Her expectations for her players are high, and half of every three-hour practice is a tutoring session, with volunteers she finds to help the kids with their English and other subjects.

I read the version "adapted for young people," and there seemed to be a few editing errors and inconsistencies. Told mostly in third person, the use of first person crops up about halfway through, then disappears again until the end, a jarring interruption. One of the families' stories describes a mother grabbing her two youngest sons and fleeing, but at least one of her older sons reappears later, with no explanation. It's a bit unclear how Coach Luma makes a living (though in the article above, it mentions the cleaning company she starts to hire refugee women), and there's no resolution with her family back in Jordan (although that may be that they are still not in communication). A basic understanding of the rules of soccer is expected.

The book was fine, but it doesn't really tackle the issues it raises - particularly the resettlement of refugee families and education of refugee children - nor does it explore the characters' lives in depth (there are, after all, so many characters).

Quotes/notes

For reasons he rarely revealed, he was separated at some point from his parents and taken in by his uncle... (99) - Rarely? Or never? Or just not to the author?

"And if you keep getting beat up on the same road, take a different road." (143) - Luma's advice to the Fugees on avoiding gangs

"It kept our minds from thinking about what happened....We made friends - kids from different cultures. It broadened our minds, and we weren't the only ones going through hard times. That's why the team is so close. It became our family." (Shamsoun, 178)

A few minutes later, Jeremiah added another [goal] with a cannon shot from fifteen yards out. His teammates responded by getting on the ground and kissing his shooting foot. (209)

But there are still challenges....the local public schools continue to fail the refugee population - and American students as well. (222)

"No one person can do everything. But we can all do something." (Tracy Ediger, Fugees' team manager, 226) ( )
  JennyArch | Oct 25, 2017 |
There is so much soccer in the book that it becomes tedious if you don't know (or care) about it. I found myself skipping those paragraphs describing game play and just scanning for the score to see if the Fugees won or lost that match. Luma, the coach, is an interesting, if not entirely likable character. I really enjoyed the stories of the players and their families and their reactions and adaptations to life in the U.S. A good editing would have improved the book immensely, I think. The call to social justice is lost in the maze of soccer details. ( )
1 vote mojomomma | Mar 19, 2017 |
This story takes place in a small town in Georgia. Conflict was and still is rampant around the world, where families lived in constant fear. This mismatched soccer team name eventually evolves to being called, The Fugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
selected families to relocate to the United States The Fugues came from Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Liberia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, among other countries. They are boys whose families were selected by the UNHCR for resettlement in a small town outside Atlanta called Clarkston. Most arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs and already in debt – owing thousands of dollars to a government agency for the cost of their one-way plane tickets to America. Once in the U.S., resettled refugees are given just three months of assistance from the government before they’re on their own, left to do the best they can to build new lives in a strange land.

This kind of transition would be difficult for anyone, but children and teenagers face special challenges. They are caught between worlds – no longer of the countries in which they were born, yet still separate and outside from the culture of their new home. They are outsiders at school, and at the same time, come under pressure from parents who see efforts to act or dress “American” as a repudiation of their native culture. Outside of school and their homes, the boys must also contend with pressure from the local street gangs who don’t hesitate to take advantage of the newcomers’ desire to belong.

A remarkable woman who emigrated from Jordan named Luma has a burden for these boys and their families. And even though she is a "girl" she knows how to coach and can certainly play soccer. She organizes a team for these diverse boys, battling language barriers, lack of funding and racial discrimination. After all, how can families afford to buy soccer shoes when they don't even have money to put food on the table. At times, the book frustrated me as Luma and The Fugees, experience such hardships, failure and disappointment. I wanted everything to go smoothly for them, but this is not a work of fiction and problems abound. But Luma somehow had the personality and heart to perservere. She does not view herself as remarkable, but she made a difference in the lives of many people who would have simply been lost in the system. Luma is still doing so today.



( )
  jothebookgirl | Jan 3, 2017 |
The small Georgia town of Clarkston, outside Atlanta, went from being a small smouthern town to being a major spot for resettled refugees. From many countries. The population grew, the schools were faced with many students who didn't speak English, the refugees were settled into apartment blocks already inhabited by poor Americans and gang members. And the white old-timers were not all happy. At all.

As these changes were occurring, a Jordanian immigrant and soccer coach (who came to the US to attend college, not as a refugee), drove through one day and was shocked at the population she saw walking around town and playing soccer. After some research, she decided to start a free soccer program for kid.

This book chronicles the journey--the frustrating encounters with the mayor and town council, the sponsorship and promises from the nearby YMCA, the problems of dealing with troubled/frightened/overwhelmed kids and scared/exhausted parents, and the successes (big and small). ( )
  Dreesie | Jul 26, 2016 |
The story gives the reader some insight to an immigrant's struggle to settle in a new country and culture. ( )
  cjmidt | Mar 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
The book is a sports story, a sociological study, a tale of global and local politics, and the story of a determined woman who became involved in the lives of her young charges.
added by khuggard | editSchool Library Journal, Sarah Flowers
 
St. John begins with an inspiring description of a beautifully played game and then delves into the team's formation, but his storytelling takes on the methodical approach of a long series of newspaper articles that lack narrative flair and progression.
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly
 

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On a cool spring afternoon at a soccer field in northern Georgia, two teams of teenage boys were going through their pregame warm-ups when the heavens began to shake.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385522037, Hardcover)

The extraordinary tale of a refugee youth soccer team and the transformation of a small American town

Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement center in the 1990s, becoming the first American home for scores of families in flight from the world’s war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston’s streets were filled with women wearing the hijab, the smells of cumin and curry, and kids of all colors playing soccer in any open space they could find. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.

Set against the backdrop of an American town that without its consent had become a vast social experiment, Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees and their charismatic coach. Warren St. John documents the lives of a diverse group of young people as they miraculously coalesce into a band of brothers, while also drawing a fascinating portrait of a fading American town struggling to accommodate its new arrivals. At the center of the story is fiery Coach Luma, who relentlessly drives her players to success on the soccer field while holding together their lives—and the lives of their families—in the face of a series of daunting challenges.

This fast-paced chronicle of a single season is a complex and inspiring tale of a small town becoming a global community—and an account of the ingenious and complicated ways we create a home in a changing world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:09 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Documents the lives of a wildly diverse group of young kids who miraculously unite as a team, against the backdrop of a fading American town struggling to make a haven for its new arrivals--refugees.

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