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Outcasts United  By  cover art

Outcasts United

By: Warren St. John
Narrated by: Lincoln Hoppe
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Editorial reviews

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 narration half 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 battle whether 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 families turning 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

Publisher's summary

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 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

Critic reviews

"Lincoln Hoppe brings a smooth flow to a true story full of struggles. With even tones and seemingly effortless pronunciations, Hoppe introduces the various young immigrants who come together from all over the world, from a multitude of traumatic backgrounds, to form the Fugees soccer team. Hoppe also voices the dreams and disappointments of Coach Luma Mufleh, herself a refugee from Jordan, who is tough enough to create a bond among her disparate members; take on the prejudices of Clarkston, Georgia; and help the story’s young adults fight their way to victory over poverty, the temptations of gang life, cultural differences, and learning difficulties. Hoppe melds the story of these challenges as beautifully as Mufleh brings together her team and her community." (AudioFile magazine)

"Wonderful, poignant...highly recommended." (Library Journal)

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