Outcasts United

Well I suppose I should say something about the NBA and LeBron's big decision, but with the World Cup finals just around the corner, I thought it appropriate to highlight a book about soccer.  I haven't really read any books about basketball (or Miami) and I can't say I've read many books about soccer (or should I say football?) but this was a one that I really did enjoy!

Outcasts United - the story of The Fugees, a soccer team of refugee children from a small town in Georgia - at first look seems to have all the makings of a Disney movie.  The story unfolds by introducing readers to Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman driven to make a life for herself in the USA while missing the family that disapproves of her new home.  But Luma is no Disney heroine, she is a rough-edged, straight-talking, disciplinarian and her new job as soccer coach to The Fugees is much more than the plot to a family movie.  Taking on leadership of three age groups, Luma's life becomes entwined with those of the players.  Often she is called upon to be much more than a coach and enter into the roles of friend, mother, confidant, provider, chauffeur and counselor to her young charges and their families.

Warren St. John writes the book in a distinctly journalistic style.  At times, this causes choppiness to the story, but ultimately it is an effective way to narrate the various facets of the lives of The Fugees' players, their experiences, and the various effects of refugee resettlement on the town of Clarkston, Georgia.  St. John tackles the issues of racism plaguing the town as well as the challenges faced by the resettlement aides and adjustments of the longtime town residents.  One of the strengths of this book, also, is that Clarkston, Georgia paints a portrait of refugees on a global scale.  Though some parts of the United States have been havens for newcomers from a single country, players on The Fugees bring stories of war-zones, famine, and political unrest from all over the world.

From Iraq to Sudan, Kosovo to Burundi, Liberia to Jordan, Outcasts United is truly an international story.  Luma Mufleh's life in particular is worthy of great admiration for her discipline and dedication in coaching three teams of children facing some of life's greatest challenges.  With post-traumatic stress, poverty, language barriers and the luring threat of gang life, it is Mufleh and the game of soccer that bring the group together as an oddly mixed family.  Together they must discover that even above winning and losing, what really matters is how you play the game.

Anyone else have any good books about soccer/football to recommend?  Anyone really stoked about the World Cup?  Who are you cheering for or against?  Personally, my favorite summer sports events are Wimbledon tennis (Congrats Rafa!) and Major League Baseball's Home Run Derby.  How about you?

13 Response to "Outcasts United"

  1. Selva Kumar R says:
    July 9, 2010 at 12:51 PM

    I have never read any book with sports theme. I supported BRAZIL but it is out of the tournament.And also Federer..

  2. Melissa says:
    July 10, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    I'm totally not a sports fan. My father, on the other hand, will watch any sport. It's surprising that I didn't grow up liking them more since they were always on at my house. :)

    I've never really read any sports themed books. I tend to shy away from political things as well. I feel like reading is entertainment, an escape. I like a book that gets me thinking but I definitely don't want to read someone's agenda.

    Great post, though. Very timely. Have to admit, it sounds like a good read! :)

  3. Captain Nick Sparrow says:
    July 11, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    I got this book because my book club was going to read it, but it still hasn't been moved to the top of our tbr pile! I think when it's my turn to pick I'll suggest it.

  4. Greg says:
    July 12, 2010 at 8:59 PM

    My favorite summer sports event is probably more of an "experience," and that would be baseball from mid-May (when it starts to get warm for good) until the All-Star Game. During that time, it kinda feels like baseball and the summer will last forever. But then when the All-Star Game hits, it's a reminder that the end it on the way. ;-)

    I also like the NBA Playoffs, for what it's worth! (And the hockey playoffs when the Hawks are involved...haha.)

  5. Rachel says:
    July 14, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    I haven't read many football-related books but I thought I would share this: The Beautiful Game... I have never listened to it, but I stumbled upon it one day. The narrative seems interesting, but it is Andrew Lloyd Webber, so my opinion is a bit biased against it.

    Also, very good allstar game (my Atlanta Brave, McCann got MVP)!

  6. lisa :) says:
    July 14, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    I may have to look for that soundtrack on my next library trip...

    And the All-Star Game? Sweetness!! About time the NL won one!!! Congrats to McCann - that was an awesome hit! - but you gotta give props to my Chicago Cub, Marlon Byrd too! If he hadn't strategically drawn a walk, McCann wouldn't have even gotten to bat, and Byrd's base-running scored the run that gave the NL a two run lead which was key to the AL not putting in a pinch runner for Ortiz who was thrown out on the super awesome throw by Byrd!

    Okay...probably shouldn't have gotten me started on baseball... ;) And it figures the NL gets the home field advantage in the year that my poor Cubbies have almost no chance at postseason ball. *sigh*

  7. Bailey says:
    July 17, 2010 at 11:53 AM

    I thought I commented here, but it hasn't showed up so maybe I didn't?! Anyway, I found your blog from another blog and got very excited when a) I saw that you mentioned Outcasts United because that's on my TBR list and b) I saw that you mentioned Byrd's allstar game heroics because I am a diehard Cubs fan as well. And you know, the Cubs are on a 2 game winning streak, so don't give up hope for the postseason just yet, lol!

    As for sports books, I loved 12 Mighty Orphans by Jim Dent. It's about football in Texas. My mom and grandpa recently read Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton (the all-star MLB player for the TX Rangers). It's about his struggle with drug addiction; they both loved it, so I need to read it soon.

    Anyway, sorry for the long, gushing comment! I don't live anywhere near Chicago so when I find Cubs fans I get super excited.

    -Bailey (windowseatreader.blogspot.com)

  8. lisa :) says:
    July 17, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    This seems to be on a lot of people's TBR's so I'm glad that I can recommend it. I'd love to hear thoughts as people get around to it!

    And Bailey, no apologies needed for gushing about the Cubs! It's a very popular passtime around Chicago, if you ever get to vacation in the Windy City, make Wrigley Field a priority stop! I should note too that I won't shun any South side readers, I prefer the boys in Blue but I have plenty of friends that root for the White Sox... not quite sure why though... ;)

    Thanks for the book mentions too! Josh Hamilton has an amazing story (loved him in the '08 Home Run Derby!!) and I had forgotten that he has a book out, not surprised that it's a great read. I'll have to add it to my list!

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