Customer Review

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes inspiring, sometimes sad, April 17, 2009
This review is from: Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town (Hardcover)
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As someone who once worked for a company where I had colleagues who were refugees of war-torn countries, this book was personally relevant. Just as in the book, I was told the most astounding and frightening tales of what people did to survive on a day-to-day basis and how they were ultimately forced to flee their homes for fear of their own lives and those of their families. It really made me think of how lucky I have always been to have never had to face anything remotely like what they'd gone through. I had the same feeling when I read this book and St. John delved into the stories of the Fugees players and what they had gone through before reaching the U.S.

Perhaps the saddest part of this book is the reality that greets these people when they reach the U.S. It was sobering to read about how they were settled in apartment complexes where they lived next door to drug dealers and gang members. It was sad to think that these people had escaped the devastation of their homes only to end up in a totally foreign culture in which they'd face a lot of the same dangers. 1

It was also disturbing to read about their treatment at the hands of the police and the long-time residents of the town. I don't think St. John was trying to paint these people out to be evil. Rather, he showed how human fears of that which is different and misunderstood can really tear at the fabric of a society. These people struggle with trying to find a way to deal with the influx of refugees into their town. Sometimes their solutions are brilliant, such as the story of the local grocery store, and sometimes they are just wrong, such as the Fugees inability to find a decent soccer field near their homes.

I was really struck by Luma, their coach, and how much she sacrificed in order to run her three soccer teams. The dedication of people like her and some of the other volunteers described in the book is really something to contemplate. She gave a lot of herself not only to get the team running but also to do what she could to ensure that her boys stayed in school and out of trouble. Her teams pretty much became her entire life rather than just a pastime. It's hard not to marvel at how heroic someone like this is because it makes the reader question if s/he would be as dedicated.

This book is a really important read. The face of the U.S. is definitely in a state of transition. This is and has always been a nation of immigrants but this book is timely when placed in the context of the arguments about illegal immigration that took place during the Bush administration. The big question, really, seems to be about immigration in general, both legal and illegal. In order to really make our country work, we have to find a way to live with our neighbors and to respect their customs. Even if you're not a fan of soccer (as in my case), this is still a book that will fascinate, amaze, and horrify you. What's more, you'll walk away with it with some new and valuable ways of looking at the U.S.
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