Jaime's Reviews > Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, an American Town

Outcasts United by Warren St. John
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Nov 01, 11

bookshelves: 2011, non-fiction
Read in November, 2011

I read this for my book club, and as part of this year’s Roanoke Valley Reads program. The program is designed to increase reading and foster a sense of community, and is supplemented with several discussion programs across the valley. This book was a particularly good pick, because like Clarkston, Roanoke is a refugee resettlement community. I had no idea until I read this book.

Overall, I thought this book was interesting and well-done. St. John shares with us a variety of refugee experiences, ranging from African civil and tribal wars to the war in Bosnia. Along the way, we learn a little about what started these conflicts, and how the refugees ended up that way. We also learn about a side of small-town politics that I’m sure the town of Clarkston wishes they didn’t have.

But it’s not all about taking the side of the refugees over the "natives" of Clarkston. It’s obvious that the refugee resettlement program has a lot of problems, and many of the problems in Clarkston could have been eliminated if the program was better managed. Other problems are cultural, and are harder to overcome.

There’s a lot of soccer talk in the book, but it’s easy to understand even for the uninitiated. Several of the people in the book club who didn’t know anything about soccer said they had no problem following what was going on.

The only thing I thought the book was missing was a more well-rounded depiction of Luma. We get a good idea of her background, but eventually she becomes rather one-dimensional. She’s just "Coach". I can’t pinpoint exactly what else I would have liked to know, just that there was something missing.

Several blog posts about this book and the Roanoke Valley Reads events can be found on the Roanoke Valley Reads web site.
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