Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town By Warren St. John


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I absolutely loved this read. I thought it was a really powerful story of bravery and resilience and provided a lot of insight into the harsh realities and unique experiences that so many refugee families face in the process of resettlement. It displayed a beautiful story of adolescents from all around the world learning to combat division and isolation through the power of connection and friendship. I just loved it!!

This was a reading recommendation for my family policy class last semester, and I got to base my entire learning experience in that class around the topic of resettlement. Wrote a research paper on the mental health needs of refugee families in the process of resettlement, and this book helped me have a more holistic understanding of the vulnerable experiences of these individuals that could lead to mental health struggles - specifically for adolescents.

I just think this is such an important topic and I’m glad I got to read this book. A pretty quick read (if you don’t read it over the course of a hectic semester like I did lol). Highly recommend!! Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town Though an extremely original idea for a book, St. John does only a mediocre job of capturing the lives, trials, and tribulations of a group of young immigrant boys living in Clarkston, Georgia. Living near Clarkston myself, perhaps my opinion is tainted by the grim realities of Clarkston. But, I felt the book could have been extraordinary with better writing and stronger character development. Outcasts United is the story of struggling immigrants escaping brutalities, war, and persecution in their native countries. Looking for a better life in America, your heart will go out to the youths of the Fugees soccer team and their unlikely coach, Luma, herself an immigrant. There are no heros in this story, standing in a blaze of glory; just everyday people trying to help each other, and a dedicated woman who gives her time and energy to a rogue group of young boys. The movie rights to this story have already been sold, and if written and directed well, it will surely make a heart-warming film. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town If Disney got its hands on this would, the script would look a lot like a true-story Bad News Bears or Mighty Ducks or Major League. Rag-tag Bunch of Misfit Kids Ruffle the Establishment and Win the Championship. Fortunately, that's not actually what this book is about. And fortunately (as far as I know) Disney doesn't yet have its hands on this one.

What makes the book engaging is that it presents several good narratives. The author is at his best in presenting the social turmoil brought about in the small Atlanta suburb, where the good-natured but xenophobic mayor and the ideologue police chief are cartoonishly unprepared for the new settlers. Some people and institutions in Clarkston embrace change, while others retreat from the community or resist outright. But the transformation story of Clarkston, Georgia, resulting from the dramatic influx of resettled refugees from every imaginable contemporary conflict, is topic enough for a book. These stories are captured wonderfully.

The bigger challenge for the writer, a white American (and a grown man), is capturing the lives of the refugees themselves, and the kids in particular. This is still done as well as one might be able to hope. Many of these children find the soccer team to be critically important for them. They learn to take responsibility for their own actions and play together. But more importantly, the team and its unlikely coach give them structure and friendship, an outlet for youthful aggression, and a role model. The author particularly focuses on the growth of the under-13 soccer team, since those kids work together, grow, and best embody the hope and spirit of their coach.

But the most compelling storyline centers on the under-15 team. These kids endure chaos in the form of a perfect storm. Many are from single parent families whose head-of-household has to work long hours to keep the family afloat. Many arrived in the country at an age advanced enough to make the language and cultural transitions particularly difficult. And to top it off, they are at an age that proves to be awkward even for the most well-adjusted of our species. Some of the kids cope well, but many others do not. As a result, the team fares poorly.

Each year, San Diego's public library and public radio team up to choose a contemporary book to promote as the city's book for the year in a program called One Book, One San Diego, and this is the chosen volume for 2010. (And this is why I read the book at all.)

Cynically, I was disappointed when I first saw their choice this year. For the fourth year in a row, it's nonfiction, and I was afraid I'd get too much of a dose of that feared Disney pic. But this book really was much more fun than I'd feared. And given that San Diego is every bit as common a destination for refugees as Atlanta, it's a very relevant choice. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town I am not a fan of soccer, but I picked this book up based solely on my fondness for Warren St. John (author of Rammer JammerYellow Hammer). This story of Luma Mufleh, a native of Jordan, and the Fugees, her soccer teams comprised of boys whose families fled to the United States from across the war-tattered globe, transcends any sport that might have served as the catalyst for their coming together.

Clarkston, Georgia is one of several US cities in which refugees are relocated, and Outcasts United is as much about the difficulties faced by these communities as they are forced into assimilation of disparate cultures as it is about the Fugees, but the heart and soul of the book lies in the transformation not only of the boys from vastly different places but of Luma Mufleh as well.

This is a big, complicated world, but in Clarkston, Georgia, Mufleh and her Fugees have found a way to build relationship between and around every possible cultural difference: politics, religion, and race. The answer is so simple: changes don't come through policies, they come through people working together, playing together.

Since this was an advance reading copy, a promised epilogue is not included, and I will be waiting anxiously for the completed book to come to market to have answers to the heartbreaking turn of events at the end.

I share with you this link to a youtube video about this remarkable woman, and her inspirational Fugees.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lslOsU... Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town
Perhaps I rate this book too low. It is a heartwarming sports story about a rag-tag group of misfits, facing extraordinary obstacles, who are molded by a stern but loving misfit coach into a disciplined and successful organization. Since my favorite forms of literature are Jacobean revenge plays, dark fantasy, and Edwardian ghost stories, this is not exactly the ideal book for me.

The high school where I work made me read it. The administration—along with the administrations of over 40 colleges and universities—chose it for our summer reading book. Left to my own devices, I would have probably read Mervyn Peak's “Titus Alone” instead.

Still, it kept my interest. The transformation of the sleepy little town of Clarkston, Georgia--first swallowed by Atlanta's urban sprawl, then filled with large numbers of immigrants from disparate refugee communities—is fascinating in itself. Furthermore, the stories of the various families of refugees—most from war-torn Muslim countries—are both moving and historically informative. Finally, the account of the soccer coach Luma Mufleh—a young woman disowned by her wealthly Jordanian family because of her decision to remain in the United States—and how she transforms these uprooted, traumatized boys into disciplined members of unified soccer teams is not only interesting, but also an object lesson in leadership.

Author Warren St. John deserves a great deal of credit, for he refuses to do what many journalist would do in such a place: make this story more inspiring and “cinematic” than the facts themselves actually warrant. Instead, he describes the team and its struggles straightforwardly, and declines to sensationalize his material.

My major problem with the book perhaps arises from Mr. St.John's admirable restraint. Ms. Mufleh is a very private person, and I suspect not a particularly reflective one. Consequently, this account of her great achievement is something always viewed from the outside, something that remains public, artistically incomplete. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town

Working with clients has been a 20-year challenge during which I created an analogy comparing a soccer team to a public relations team, a device for clients to comprehend that it takes both sides to achieve a goal. I had little interest in soccer until Frank Reiss, owner of A Cappella Books, suggested I obtain a review copy of a book about the Fugees, a soccer team just outside of Atlanta.

In “Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town,” Warren St. John, a New York Times reporter (on sale April 21) tells the poignant story of refugees joining a team to reach their goal – a new life in the United States. A front-page article in the New York Times, in January 2007, began St. John’s reporting on the Fugees and he followed up with two articles inspiring him to write his book.

St. John brings together the refugee’s desire for community in the Diaspora, education as a means to success, discipline and fun. The author will appear in Atlanta with Coach Luma Mufleh at The Carter Center, presented by A Cappella Books, at 7:00 p.m. on April 22. Tickets are $10 or free with the purchase of the book. St. John returns to Atlanta on May 20 for an appearance at Borders. For a full schedule and information visit the publisher’s website at www.randomhouse.com and click on author events.

Refugees and immigrants are at opposite ends of the spectrum. A refugee is a person in exile, one fleeing, no matter the cost, from persecution. The immigrant is one who has opted to settle in a new country. According to the Homeland Security Office Department of Immigration Statistics, 166,392 persons were admitted to the United States as refugees during 2008 (the latest statistics available).

According to the Georgia Depart of Human Resources (last statistics available from July 2007), Georgia ranks among the nation’s top ten state programs in resettling new citizens. Currently refugees from 41 countries have settled in 40 of Georgia’s 159 counties with the highest concentration in Fulton and DeKalb (where Clarkston is located) counties. In 2006, approximately 2,000 refugees resettled in Georgia.

Clarkston, Georgia (13 miles from Atlanta) is home to the Fugees soccer team, comprised of refugees from Sudan, the Congo, Kosovo, Liberia, Iraq and Afghanistan. St. John’s compelling prose tells of the obstacles that the team has faced – lack of equipment and a permanent playing field and the most egregious of all, Clarkston’s Mayor Swaney, who declared it illegal for the Fugees to practice on public athletic fields. An article about the soccer team ran in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on April 6, 2005 and a few months later another article in the same newspaper highlighted the dispute between the team and the local government. The Mayor of Doraville, a nearby Georgia town echoed Swaney’s stance according to St. John, complaining of seeing “immigrants playing soccer in a town cemetery.”

Setting the stage for the book, St. John focuses on Luma Mufleh, the coach of the Fugees. Mufleh left Amman, Jordan and her well-to-do family in search of freedom from the constraints of the Middle East. She had attended the American Community School in Jordan where she first tasted the liberty from Muslin expectations of women through sports – playing soccer, basketball, volleyball and baseball. In St. John’s book her coach, Rhonda Brown (an African American) says, Luma was “keen to learn, dedicated and the kind of player a team could be built around.”

St. John writes tenderly of Luma’s relationship with her grandmother, the only one, “among the family that seemed to understand the implications of Luma attending college in the United States.” Her grandmother knew that once there, Luma would never return to Jordan. Her departure created a vast rift in the family and the silence fueled Luma’s desire to create a new family in the United States. Today, Luma has reconciled with her family who have visited her in Clarkston and assisted the Fugees through sponsorship of school and athletic supplies.

As much as the author tells Luma’s story, he also provides insight into the soccer players and their families. The stories behind the relocations of Luma and members of the Fugees to the United States and what happened to family members left behind are the most intriguing parts of the book. While I have not had the refugee experience, I have lived in Mexico and various cities in the United States, far from my native New York in culture, language and opportunity. I have found my way by creating new friends and through volunteering. Writing about culture and people and through the eyes of authors such as Warren St. John, I have adapted and come to love my new surroundings and the adventure each move brings. To assist the refugee community visit the website of the Refugee Resettlement & Immigration Services of Atlanta (rrisa.org), a non-profit agency that provides services to transition into American culture for hundreds of refugees annually.

In the course of writing his book, St. John asked Luma to put her philosophy into words to “provide a framework for others who hoped to replicate the kind of program she created.” According to the author, he learned that there was “no great secret to what made the Fugees work. “They were powered by simple but enduring ideas: a sense of fairness, love, forgiveness and most of all, a willingness to work – to engage in the process of turning these simple notions into actions that could affect others.”

Writing of the developments since he turned in his manuscript, St. John says that, “Relations between the city of Clarkston and the Fugees, for the most part, have improved.” The reporting that Mayor Swaney’s term ends this year and that he will not seek reelection tumbles off the page in a matter of fact manner but left this reader believing that what goes around comes around.

Pages in newspapers and news websites recount impersonal refugee stories. Warren St. John has made the larger story personal and emotional. The non-fiction telling of the Fugees’ success is a lesson for all citizens as well those who have adopted the United States as their home. Crossing cultures the book shows that community, hard work and dedication create a future worth living.

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Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town Quando sei piccolo, non c'è bisogno di altro: due magliette per terra a fare da porta, ed una qualunque forma rotondeggiante come pallone. In fondo, il segreto del successo del calcio è in questa sua fanciullesca semplicità.

Rifugiati Football Club nasce da qui: dal campo polveroso di una cittadina americana in cui ragazzi di ogni provenienza ed etnia fanno rotolare un pallone: sono stati trasferiti a Clarkston nell'ambito di un programma ONU e sono accomunati da un passato di carestie, guerre, pulizie etniche. Luma Mufleh li osserva: è una ragazza giordana fresca di laurea che ha deciso di non rientrare in patria e di cercare la sua strada negli States. E guardando i rifugiati di Clarkston giocare a calcio sente di aver trovato la via giusta. Warren St. John racconta la storia di Luma e delle squadre che allena; di più, racconta con lo sguardo attento del giornalista la difficile integrazione degli immigrati nella realtà americana, e lo fa con un piglio sociologico mai pedante. La storia di questi ragazzi colpisce inevitabilmente, come colpisce la vita di Luma, la sua passione, il progetto di trasformare un'attività sportiva in una vera occasione di inserimento. E fa quasi male l'ottusità di sceriffo, sindaco e altre realtà locali, preoccupati più della salute di un manto erboso che della integrazione dei nuovi arrivati. L'autore, giovane giornalista del New York Times, è sufficientemente modesto da non dichiararlo, ma furono proprio i suoi articoli pubblicati dal quotidiano della Grande Mela a scatenare il sostegno all'iniziativa, che conta oggi anche su sponsor importanti.

Sono un acceso tifoso, chi mi conosce o mi legge lo sa. Consentitemi quindi una chiusura personale: il desiderio per stagione appena iniziata di vedere i giocatori della mia Triestina mettere in campo il cuore, la voglia, il sudore di questi giovani, ricordandosi di quando correvano dietro un pallone da piccoli. I risultati conteranno un po' meno. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town Regardless if you love soccer (or even really understand the game fully) you will enjoy this book. The book follows a youth soccer league made up of resettled refugees in Georgia, but it's really not that simple. Yes, you will learn a lot about soccer -- but you become aware of much more than that. How a small white, Southern town deals with an influx of refugees from conflict zones from around the world. What life was like in the war zones, refugee camps and other places people traveled through before resettlement. You also come to understand that once they arrive in the United States, refugees face a whole new group of challenges. [return]This book as much about the people themselves rather than the game they play. Your eyes and your heart will be opened having read this book. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town A Celebration of Life

i really loved this book. For me, it shows how we could and should treat refugees. Bonding on their common love of soccer, these boys stayed out of trouble in a gang neighborhood and improved in academics. All because a coach had a dream.

This would make a great movie!!! Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town I truly only chose this because it was one of the summer reading options for our high school and this is what my sons both chose. The theme for this year is the immigrant experience, a topic about which I’ve read a ton, but not much non-fiction.
This is an inspiring and unusual story because it covers a small American town with a huge influx of refugees from all over the world. They share no common language or culture, just trauma and displacement. The issues facing both the immigrants and the townspeople are complex and the author does a great job of maintaining some journalistic distance in order to let readers sort out our own opinions.
But his admiration for the Fugees Soccer team shines through and it’s those human interest stories that give this book its heart. These young men, their love of soccer and their determination to find some joy in their lives kept me turning pages.
This book was a reminder that no act of kindness is too small to make a difference in someone’s life, a reminder that we can’t define people by one characteristic, and a reminder that everyone has a story.
A quick, easy and inspiring read. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town

For readers who followed Enrique's Journey, Outcasts United is another equally moving account of refugees finding a new life in the U.S. Based on the adult bestseller, Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference, this young people's edition is a complex and inspirational story about the Fugees, a youth soccer team made up of diverse refugees from around the world, and their formidable female coach, Luma Mufleh. Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical southern town until it became a refugee resettlement center. The author explores how the community changed with the influx of refugees and how the dedication of Lumah Mufleh and the entire Fugees soccer team inspired an entire community. Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town