Clarkston, Georgia: an Atlanta suburb, and a resettlement community for thousands of refugees from some of the most war-torn parts of the world. Outcasts United is the story of a youth soccer team (three teams, really) comprised of Clarkston's newest young residents. The teams, the Fugees, face nearly insurmountable odds. The players and their families have found themselves torn from home, in a foreign environment, with few resources. Backbreaking work schedules, few resources, and shell shock all haunt the resettled families of Clarkston. But many of the children from these families share a love of soccer. Under the direction of a dedicated coach, Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman looking to find her niche in the United States, the Fugees create a team, against seemingly insurmountable odds. The Fugees lack equipment and practice space, they also face significant opposition from the longtime residents of Clarkston, including the mayor and city council. Clarkston is clearly a town in transition, and one that is having a hard time handling that transition. In telling the story of Clarkston and the Fugees, St. John has crafted an engaging narrative that wraps hope and seeming hopelessness into a story in which its nearly impossible to not root for the kids. Throughout the book St. John remains sympathetic to all of the parties in the book. It's easy to cheer on the kids; the longtime residents of Clarkston are less sympathetic. Still, St. John does an admirable job of trying to understand the myriad of problems Clarkston's mayor, in particular, tries to manage as he deals with a growing population with diverse needs. This is a story about a community, but it is also important to note that this is a story about a soccer team too. For those who are not terribly interested in soccer (such as myself), I did find there to be quite a bit of discussion of the sport- the plays maneuvers used during the games. This I did not care for quite as much, and found myself thumbing forward a few pages for most of the in-depth discussions of game time. That said, there is still much here to interest the general reader of literary non-fiction. I was taken with the Fugees' story, and I am certain many other readers will be too.
Warren St. John, Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town (Spiegel and Grau, 2009) ISBN: 0385522037
Category: Literary Nonfiction- 1/9, 10/81