The town of Clarkston, GA never wanted to represent anything. It did not want to make an impact, be studied, written about in newspapers, visited by media, or become a hub of diversity. But Clarkston got all that and more. This small town on the outskirts of Georgia is where many families go once they are resettled in the US by the UN resettlement office. They come from countries where thousands can die a day, and we read about it in the small print on the back of a newspaper. They come to survive, to live, to move on. They do not get to choose the town (or even the country) that they are resettled in, but if asked many would say “Where I can live in peace.” All of this makes the small town of Clarkston one of the most diverse in the nation.
These families come with children, many who speak two or more languages, but, sadly, those languages do not usually include English. These children come with very little education, education tends to takes a back seat when you are trying to avoid being gunned down or thrown in prison. Most come with incomplete families, leaving others that have been victims of the violence. They are taken out of the culture they know, into a town where your next door neighbor may be from Bosnia, Ivory Cost, Darfur, or even from your own country, but maybe a rival tribe.
They come searching for hope, but instead find minimum wage jobs, violent neighborhoods, racism, resentment, and worse of all, indifference.
Into this mix, bring in a young woman from Jordan with the determination to make these boys a team. She will fight for them both on the field and off. She will give up any semblance of personal life to help these families do such basic things as understand an electric bill. Together, she and the boys from all over the world, will form a team called the Fugees, and she will restore to them what they need most- hope.
That is what Outcasts United is about. It takes a frank look at the situation Clarkston and the refugees find themselves in, and offers the amazing story of one woman who helped by forming a soccer team.
I thought this book was especially pertinent right now as the World Cup was going on. Sadly, we, as Americans, grossly underestimate the power of soccer in day to day life for the rest of the world. Soccer is what these boys had in common, and what will give them the power to succeed.
This book has won a ton of well-deserved awards, and stayed on the best seller list for a long time. I can see why. It is a powerful story with a powerful message. My only complaint is that is really drags in some parts, and I didn’t like how the author ended it. Nonetheless, I encourage you to read it.
And now to my rating system:
Buy it NOW!– this is reserved for the best books
Paperback on an Airplane– It’s a good read, but if you leave it in the seat, you won’t be crushed.
Borrow it– From the library or from a friend, that way if you don’t like it or don’t find it especially moving, as I suspect you might, you won’t have spent your hard earned money on it.
Wait for the move– The book is awful, but it might make a great film.
Skip it altogether– I hated it, I think you will too.
For Outcasts United – I am going with Paperback on an Airplane
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