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Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Differenceby Warren St. John
Synopses & Reviews
1. When played beautifully, as Coach Luma might say, soccer is one of the world’s most fluid and graceful games. How does the nature of soccer refl ect and influence the ways in which the refugee children respond to the challenges of life in Clarkston? Is there something about the game that might make it particularly compelling for children who have endured war, violence, and displacement?
2. Coach Luma is also a Clarkston “outsider” in terms of her nationality. In what ways does her experience as an immigrant compare with those of her players? How does her “outsider” status affect the bond between the coach and her team?
3. Chapter 3 describes a study led by Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam that states that inhabitants of hyperdiverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life and distrust their neighbors. Are you surprised by Putnam’s findings? Why or why not? How can communities best overcome this unfortunate tendency? 4. How has the history of migration altered the cultural landscape in your community?
4. The Under 13s managed to develop a warm, familial connection with little regard to their cultural and religious differences, while the Under 15s were less successful in creating such an environment. Why were the younger Fugees able to bond in a way that their older counterparts were unable to achieve? How did that bond, or lack thereof, affect their performance both on and off the fi eld?
5. The refugee community in Clarkston is composed of a conglomerate of religions, ethnicities, and languages. How do the contrasting experiences of the Under 13 and Under 15 players relate to the complexities that face the refugee community as a whole?
6. With the arrival of the Somali Bantu in Clarkston, longtime Clarkston residents became alarmed about changes in their community even though refugees had been resettling in Clarkston since the 1980s. Why was the local response suddenly more intense at this point in Clarkston’s history of refugee resettlement?
7. How does Mandela Ziaty’s struggle with issues of identity differ from that of many American- born teenagers? Are there more similarities than differences? How does his dual identity as a defacto American and a displaced Liberian complicate this struggle?
8. In chapter 24, Jeremy Cole, a case manager at one of the refugee agencies in Clarkston, challenged his traditional beliefs by converting to Islam. How were he and other Americans working with the refugee communities provoked to re examine their own identities based upon their interactions with different cultures?
9. Discuss the problems involved in the Fugees’ search for a home field. Did the Clarkston government violate their human rights? What about the situation of the Lost Boys and the use of the soccer field?
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 worlds war zones—from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkstons 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 Clarkstons 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
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