Review: Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman’s Quest to Make a Difference by Warren St. John

Okay this review is going to be a little different so I wanted to add a little warning here.

I read this for my Diverse Populations class and had answer the professor’s questions as a “review”. I figured that I could just transfer that all over, so it is a little long and it is way different.

If you don’t want to check it out, that’s okay! I just didn’t want to retype what I had already typed. I thought this would be unique.

Thanks for understanding!


Buy the Book:


Barnes and Noble

Book Details:

322 Pages

Published: April 21, 2009

Author: Warren St. John


Synopsis: The extraordinary story of a refugee football team and the transformation of a small American town.

Clarkston, Georgia, was a typical Southern town until it was designated a refugee settlement centre in the 1990s, becoming home to 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 colours playing football in any open space they could find. Among them was Luma Mufleh, a Jordanian woman who founded a youth football team to unify Clarkston’s refugee children and keep them off the streets. These kids named themselves the Fugees.

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 centre of the story is fiery Coach Luma, who relentlessly drives her players to success on the football 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.


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  1. Thoughts and Feelings about reading this book
    • Do you like to read books that are not textbooks? Yes, I do. I actually run my own book blog and posts reviews on what I read.
    • What are your thoughts about this book? I am excited. It is different from books that I normally read. I have recently enjoyed reading about refugees and culturally diversity though.
    • What do you think it will be about? I think it will be about sports bringing refugees together. It will show the impacts of teamwork and comradery through soccer for those newly in a completely different environment.
    • How do you feel like this book will fit in with the diversity course? I think it fit in due to the refugees assimilation into American society. It will show the impacts of a diverse population in a small American town.
  1. Chapters 1-5
    • Talk about why you think the people of Clarkston were scared of the refugees that were moving into their town? The refugees bring a complete and total change to Clarkston. The citizens are scared of change, the refugees, and what they will bring with them. There is a lack of understanding.
    • What did Luma do to show her independence and follow her dream?  How did it affect her family? Luma decided to stay in the USA after college. Her family completely cut her off and disowned her.
    • Why do the refugees see Coach Luma as not knowing what she was doing?  Is this way of thinking different in the United States culture than theirs?  Why or why not? The refugees viewed Luma as an imbecile because she was a woman and older than they. Men/boys often seen women as subordinate to them.
    • Why did Jeremiah acquire the name “One Shoe”?  Talk about the significance of the shoe. Why is it so important and why do you think he only has one? Jeremiah acquired the name “One Shoe” because he only owned one soccer cleat. He took care of it and it was his prized possession.
    • Even though Coach Luma was not a social worker, what social work roles did she play with the refugees? Luma was able to understand what the refugees were going through. She was able to relate to them on a personal level. She listened to the refugees, but did not pry. She let them speak to her as they needed.
    • Talk about the biggest challenge coach Luma faced with the players.  What ways can you think of that she can get the team to work together? Luma’s biggest challenge with the players is underlying racism and discrimination between the different nationalities. The players would split up into teams with players of the same background or language as them. Luma should split them up herself and really focus on teamwork and diversity.
  1. Chapters 6-10
    • If given the same situation and options as Paula was given what would you choose to do and why? I would’ve done the same thing if in the same situation as Paula. I would’ve tried to keep my family together, but I probably would’ve tried to move to the USA sooner.
    • Imagine being told you were moving to another country in 2 week, like Bien was.  You are moving to a country where no one speaks your language, the culture is very different, and you don’t know anyone.  How do you think you would feel? I think they would feel absolutely horrified. It would be depressing and lonely. I couldn’t imagine.
    • Talk about how you felt after reading about Chime in Chapter 8.  What prompted Jordan’s attack? As a social worker in Clarkston, is there anything you could have done to prevent incidents like this? It made me feel angry, ashamed, and hurt. Jordan was questioning the officer and reached for his wallet. I’m not sure what could be done. I believe it take one person to instigate change, but it takes everyone to completely prevent circumstances. One person can’t do everything. There would have to be a complete makeover of the police department to prevent these incidents.
    • How did Luma use Networking to benefit the Fugees?  Why do you feel Networking is so important in social work? Luma talked through the parents to find help for the Fugees. She worked with the YMCA to find a field to practice on. It is all about who you know. It is easier to network and work together. With more people, there are more opportunities.
    • Discuss the Fugees and how far they have come from the first day of practice until now.  Do you think the Fugees have a fair chance in Clarkston to win or not? What are the limitations they face and do they allow these limitations to control their success? I believe they had setbacks, but they never gave up. They pushed and pushed to achieve their goals. I think their chance of winning is so-so. Clarkston is racist, anti-refugee, and anti-soccer. They will have to keep fighting in order to succeed.
  1. Chapters 11-15
    • Do you feel like Luma’s way of coaching was too harsh on the Fugees, considering all that they had been through?  Why or Why not? I believe Luma’s way of coaching gave the players focus and drive. It provided them with an outlet from what was going on in their personal lives.
    • Were you surprised at Luma cancelling the 15’s season?  Do you feel like it was the right thing to do? Why or Why not? I was not surprised when Luma cancelled the 15’s season. I am back and forth on whether or not it was the correct decision. They were disrespectful and unappreciative, but Luma could’ve used other tactics to control the team.
    • Why is it so important for Kanue to get the team back together?  Why does he push so hard to achieve this goal? The team was all Kanue had in this new country. His uncle was always gone to work and he was alone. Soccer brought him the joy he was missing in his life.
    • Why do you think that the refugees had the idea that coming to the United States would be easy and “magical”?  What, in your opinion, game them this false picture of reality? I believe everyone talks the United States up. The refugees are leaving the harsh environments in their country and the USA is a better alternative to what they were put through in their home country.
    • Burnout is common among social workers and people in the helping profession.  Luma exhibits burnout in these last few chapters. How could have prevented feeling this way?  What are some things she could have done to help her cope with the increasing challenges she faced with the refugees? I believe Luma could’ve prevented her burnout through deep thought and meditation. She could’ve been more open and understanding with the refugees and less set in her ways.
  1. Chapters 16-20
    • Luma felt like she was setting the Under 15 team up for failure since she kept the team alive.  Do you think she is setting them up for failure? Why or why not? I do not believe Luma was setting the team up for failure. She was providing them with an outlet. She was giving them something to focus on and goals to attain while teaching responsibility.
    • Mehlinger, the Thriftown owner stated, “If you don’t change, you’re gone”.  How does this statement relate to your own life and your work as a social worker/human service worker? People are constantly changing and evolving. My views are not the same as they were five years ago. You cannot be stuck in your ways. You must be open minded and considerate.
    • The Clarkston Baptist Church, now called the Clarkston International Bible Church, changed to accommodate the influx of refugees.  One of the previous members made the following statement: “I know it’s the 21st century and we have to change and do things differently, but I don’t think it’s fair that we had to cater to the foreign people rather than them trying to change to our way of doing things.”  Do you feel that the refugees should have assimilated into Clarkston culture or do you feel the city did the right thing by changing to meet the needs of the refugee population? Why? Nothing goes one way, it goes both ways. The refugees did change by coming here but the town must also accommodate and change for them.
    • Scipio, the new chief of police implemented several programs to combat the treatment of the refugee populations.  What were 2 of the things he implemented? Do you feel like he went overboard with citations or do you feel it was necessary? The two programs Scipio implemented were diversity training and civilian ride along with the officers. I do not believe he went overboard with citations. I believe it was necessary to control the “power” the officers were exerting over the citizens.
    • The term super-diversity is used in the book.  What are the steps/strategies for making super-diversity work? There are three steps for making super-diversity work. One: Instead of informing categories, consider ALL categories one belongs to. Two: Recategorization – what everyone has in common, not us vs them. Three: Mutual differentiation – acknowledge interdependence, or different group identities.
  1. Chapters 21-25
    • Why do you think that teenagers are attracted to gangs?  What did Luma do to help the Fugees understand gangs and how to protect themselves from them? Teachers are attracted to gangs due to “safety” and “comradery”. Luma gave the players alternative options. She spoke to them on their level and really informed them of the negative aspects of gangs.
    • What signaled a turning point for the Fugees 13’s?  How did this make you feel when you read it? The turning point for the 13’s was the players chanting while running. They were creating inside jokes. The fast runners slowed down for the slower runners so that they could all run and chant together.
    • Think about your teenage years.  How hard was it for you to “find yourself” and adjust to moving from your childhood to adulthood?  What additional pressure would you face as a teenage refugee? It was very hard to “find myself”. I couldn’t imagine being a teenage refugee and having to learn a totally new language and way of life.
    • Cole, a youth service coordinator at a refugee center, states, “maybe our modern ‘civilized’ world has lost something that we need as human beings.”  Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? I do agree with Cole’s statement. People are not always open to change or welcoming to diversity. We get scared and sometimes forget what we were founded upon.
    • What do you think is going to happen to Mandela since he is no longer on the team? I believe Mandela with either shape up or might succumb to a gang to find the same comradery he found with his team.
  1. Chapters 26-28
    • In other countries if someone new moves in from out of the country people want to talk to them and get to know them.  Why do you think Americans, in general, tend to be afraid of refugees/immigrants? I think they tend to be afraid of refugees because they are coming from a hostile environment and they fear they will bring it here with them.
    • Do you feel like you have any fears when it comes to people who are different from you?  What are they? I have a fear of the unknown, so I would say I do fear those who are different. I also fear being alone, especially in what I consider to be a “bad neighborhood.”
    • Why is the soccer team so important for the kids?  What other aspects of their lives do playing on a soccer team help with? They players feel the “American Dream.” They feel welcome and not alone as they are with people who are going through the same thing as them.
    • What assumptions did the officers who were booking Luma into jail make due to the fact that she was born out of the country?  If this had been you that had been arrested do you think you would have been treated differently and why? The officers assume that she is a refugee and a trouble maker. They assume she does not know the laws. Yes, I do believe I would’ve been treated differently as a white female. I’m not sure I would have even been arrested for the same incident.
  1. Chapters 29-30
    • Why do you think that the under 13’s had more faithfully adhered to Luma’s rules, drills, and her way? The 13’s are more impressionable. They look up to Luma and learn from her. She’s their “leader” and coach so they respect her.
    • What was impressive about the way the Under 13’s prayed before their game?  If it had been an American team with a few refugee players do you think it would have gone differently?  How? It was impressive because it was quickly and easily decided to adhere to the other religions so that everyone was included. Yes I do believe if it was an American team that it would’ve been different. It would’ve been a Christian prayer to God, and non inclusive because they wouldn’t think to consider someone may worship something different.
  1. Chapter 31 and Epilogue
    • What was your overall impression of the book? my overall impression was that Outcasts United was unique and awe inspiring. It was a very well written novel on a touchy subject.
    • Do you feel like you learned something about diversity and about your own biases?  If so, what did you learn? I learned that I have changed and evolved a lot over the last five years since coming to college. I am more open minded and am actually in an interracial relationship now preparing our wedding.
    • Do you think that your work as a Social Worker/teacher/ (insert any other service field) with diverse populations will be enhanced by reading this book? I do think this novel helped enhance my future career. It opened my eyes to diversities in the classroom and what all they may have been through before coming here.
  1. Your final thoughts
    • Tell me your final thoughts about the book.  Was it what you expected? Outcasts United was what I expected as I have been reading similar books here recently. I have always lived here and I know that small town way of seeing things.
    • Did you enjoy the book?  Why/why not? Yes, I did enjoy this novel. It was very informative and hard to put down. I enjoyed Luma’s guidance, encouragement, and tough love but constant support with the Fugees. She was a true hero to those kids.

My Overall Rating: ★★★★


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Author: Tiffany

I write about books.

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