Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town is the story of a soccer team made up of refugees living in small town Clarkston, Georgia, as told by the New York Times journalist Warren St. John.
The book documents the struggle between the town and the large influx of refugee inhabitants, and tells the story of how the coach, Luma Mufleh worked tirelessly to help these boys transition into American culture, by giving them a taste of home on the soccer field, along with moral support of their families, and tutoring to help them stay on track in school.
The team tutor is quoted as saying that people put Luma on a pedestal for the way she’s reached these kids and their families, and she thinks that’s the wrong attitude. She said, “One person can’t do everything. But everyone can do something.”
I don’t know that it was an implicit plan of the author, but after reading about the refugees, I did feel as if I’ve been changed — not only enlightened about their plight, but moved to want to help in some way. Whether or not I actually follow through is not the author’s fault, but the book did move me to do something.
If you liked Three Cups of Tea, you’ll definitely like this book. If — like me — you liked the idea but thought that the actual execution was a bit boring, then I’d definitely recommend Outcasts United.
Comparisons are inevitable since they are both written by journalists and feature profiles of people who are doing wonderful things. However, I think that Outcasts United has more heart, and it flows better. St. John explores the many issues of a small town being forced to accept the refugees, and introduces the many characters effortlessly. Author St. John reports mostly with a journalist’s lack of bias, but inserts just enough personal insight into the story to add to his telling of the story, without letting himself become the story.
Read more about the book and the story behind it at the Outcasts United website.
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Managing Editor Jennifer Donovan blogs at Snapshot about life with her tween daughter and preschool-aged son.
Carrie, Reading to Know says
This book sounds fabulous! I fall into the catagory of liking the IDEA of Three Cups of Tea but found the writing less than appealing. This book sounds like one I would enjoy. Thanks for the review of it!
Oh, I’ve had TCOT on my shelf for a while now, and I think I’ll have to get this one, too!
This is a book that is definitely on my to-read list. I love memoirs and books that tell about cultures outside of my own. This is both! Jackpot! 🙂 Three Cups of Tea is on my bookshelf, too, and I will be getting to it sometime this year.
Heather J. says
Just wanted you to know that I finally read this book and I loved it! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. My review posted today if you want to check it out: http://age30books.blogspot.com/2010/09/outcasts-united.html
Would this be appropriate for a tween to read? I haven’t read it yet myself though I have it on reserve at the library.
Hi Kelli–I think it would. I guess it depends how mature the tween is. There are definitely some mature family situations (kids left at home while parents work, with older kids having to care for them, and sad losses of other family relatives — that sort of thing). But if there was profanity, there wasn’t a lot of it, and I don’t remember any other mature adult themes.