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New Student Book Experience
2011 Reviews

Outcast United

Nominator #1 Comments:

This is the book chosen by the Maryland Humanities Council as the one Maryland One Book for 2010. Schools, public libraries, universities are reading it - it was the Freshman Read book for Towson University. It's a true story of a Jordanian woman who takes a group of refugee boys from many different war-torn countries and turns them into a soccer team, and the effect on the small Georgia town where they now live, the boys' lives, and the people in the town.

Nominator #2 Comments:

Outcasts United is the story of a refugee soccer team, a remarkable woman coach and a small southern town turned upside down by the process of refugee resettlement. In the 1990s, that town, Clarkston, Georgia, became a resettlement center for refugees from war zones in Liberia, Congo, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. The town also became home to Luma Mufleh, an American-educated Jordanian woman who founded a youth soccer team to help keep Clarkston’s boys off the streets. These boys named themselves the Fugees -- short for refugees. Outcasts United follows a pivotal season in the life of the Fugees, their families and their charismatic coach as they struggle to build new lives in a fading town overwhelmed by change. Theirs is a story about resilience, the power of one person to make a difference and the daunting challenge of creating community in a place where people seem to have little in common.

International diversity, interdisciplinarity (sports, politics, psychology, culture), about young people, St. John hits a trifecta . . . A fascinating and fast-moving account of big-picture politics, small-town sports, and some very memorable people. - Booklist

From Publishers Weekly:

St. John (Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer) builds on his 2007 New York Times article about the Fugees, a soccer program for boys from families of refugees from war-torn nations who have been resettled in the town of Clarkston, Ga., 13 miles east of Atlanta. Led by the founder and coach Luma Mufleh, a strong-willed, Jordanian woman who turned her back on a privileged past to stay in America after attending Smith College, the three youth teams are a conglomeration of players from Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. The challenges they face are many, including an ongoing fight against city hall for a field on which to play, and getting by with subpar equipment. Their biggest challenge, however, is the difficulty immigrants face in learning the ways of a strange land and living with the memories of tragedy (some players had lost a parent to violence or imprisonment). In spite of it all, the Fugees compete admirably with mostly white, better-funded suburban teams. 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.