Outcasts United: Book summary and reviews of Outcasts United by Warren St. John

Outcasts United

A Refugee Team, an American Town

By Warren St. John

Outcasts United
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2009,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"You can read this book or wait for the movie, but the book is worth the effort. This story is too textured, too filled with layers of light and dark, for Hollywood to capture its complexity…This is an uplifting tale celebrating the most old-fashioned of virtues: hard work, self-discipline, regard for others." - The Washington Post

"This wonderful, poignant book is highly recommended for libraries collecting on the role of sport in people's lives and for those with an interest in immigration." - Library Journal

"A fascinating and fast-moving account of big-picture politics, small-town sports, and some very memorable people." – Booklist

"He also provides some valuable sociological insight into the adjustments required from both the refugees and their Clarkston neighbors to keep this small-town melting pot from boiling over. Readable, educational and enriching." - Kirkus Reviews

"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." - Publishers Weekly.

"A brilliant and empathetic depiction of our common quest for meaning and happiness. Warren St. John invites us into the lives of a community of refugees, their bewildered neighbors in a small town, and a Jordanian woman who not only coaches but also mentors, mothers, and inspires some remarkable boys, to create a heartwarming tale about the transformations that occur when our disparate lives connect." -Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone.

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More Information

Warren St. John is a reporter for The New York Times and the author of the national bestseller Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer.

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