by Warren St. John
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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.
Good story, good reading
I first heard about this when they published a short excerpt in "Sports Illustrated" last year. I was intrigued, so I got the audiobook to listen to while I commute to work. It's a great story, although it sometimes seems like it's trying to portray the characters as perfect (this is most noticeable with Luma. They make it seem like she has very few flaws, and even her flaws are actually good traits). The reading is good, if a bit bland, but it never lost my interest. I would recommend this to pretty much anyone.