Gather 'round, friends, and listen to a story. That's the feeling you'll get right from the start of Warren St. John's Outcasts United, narrated with warmth and precision by Lincoln Hoppe. The book expands on St. John's 2007 New York Times article about The Fugees, a group of soccer teams in Clarkston, Georgia, made up of relocated refugees from war-torn countries across the globe. "On a cool, spring afternoon, at a soccer field in northern Georgia," Hoppe reads, "two teams of teenage boys were going through their pre-game warm ups when the heavens began to shake." From that opening line on, Hoppe's voice never breaks from its steady narrationhalf reporter, all storyteller. Be prepared to settle into the tale, equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking, of families and lands immediate and far away, made accessible by Hoppe's even, yet emotive rendition.
The heart and soul of The Fugees is their volunteer coach and founder, Luma Mufleh. St. John wisely begins with her, tracing back to her upbringing in Jordan, and the circumstances of her relocation to the US. It's a trick St. John keeps up throughout, deftly weaving multiple narratives and back stories that ultimately play out during hard-fought soccer matches. As Hoppe narrates, his voice takes on a friendly professorial vibe when going into the history of conflict in, say, Liberia, then switches cadence and tone to connote suspense. The story itself is as much about the new immigrant experience and the changing face of a small southern town as it is about the boys and soccer. Nothing's easy. Each chapter contains a battlewhether on the field, at city hall, with the police, or between the YMCA and no-nonsense Coach Luma as she fights tirelessly for the rights of her team and their familiesturning the details of individual lives into a sweeping epic. Sports fan or not, you'll root for The Fugees the whole way, hanging on every detail of their lives and games as the last seconds tick off the clock, driving home the big conclusion. Kelly Marages
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 world's war zones, from Liberia and Sudan to Iraq and Afghanistan. Suddenly Clarkston's 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 Clarkston's 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.
©2009 Spiegel and Grau; (P)2009 Random House
"Wonderful, poignant...highly recommended." (Library Journal)
I would read another by this author, I would avoid this narrator. His narration was only bearable at 1.5 to 2 times the regular narration speed.
Truly inspiring, informative story.
Please redo with a different narrator.
I am not quite finished listening to the book, but it's a good thing that I kept on listening to it after the first 15 minutes. Lincoln Hoppe has the most monotone voice I have ever heard. He puts very little, if any, inflection or emotion to his narrating. If it weren't for the interesting story, I would never have listened to it.
The title itself is a bit misleading, because it really is not the whole story of the Fugees. Yes, their story is told, but amidst a lot of history and information about the conflicts and wars in Africa. The Fugees story seems to be secondary to this.
Overall I gave the book four stars because of the content, but certainly not for the narration.
This book isn't so much about a team of refugee soccer players, as about the unfortunate trials and travails of the coach, the players and their families. While a realistic portrait of the challenges of immigration, the "united" aspect of the title occurs only in the final minutes of the book.
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