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Friday, September 24, 2010

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

I read this book because it was chosen for the One Maryland One Book program for 2010.  Outcasts United is supposedly being made into a movie, and I can see why; it's super heartwarming.  It's about a kids soccer team called "The Fugees" that is a lifeline to many refugee kids from other countries.  Fugees is simply short for "Refugees," and is not named after the formerly-popular hip hop group.  The town of Clarkston, Georgia has had a complex influx of refugees from many countries since the 1990's.  Here's a video link on Luma Mufleh, the Jordanian woman who took these kids in hand and got them a soccer program, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  This book came out of a popular series of articles in the NY Times, and so it's written in a journalism style--it's not the great American novel, but I didn't care.  I listened to the book and found it easy to follow, despite the fact that it often digresses to highlight the backstory of a particular child and their family.  All the children are from war-torn countries and situations, and many have endured great hardship.  The book starts out at the very beginning of this now-successful soccer program, and takes you through their early struggles, including just trying to get the right to play on a safe plot of unused grass built for games such as soccer.   Here's a link to the Fugees organization with a touching short video showing the beautiful faces of the boys on the team.  Here's another link to a couple of good youtube videos by the author.  I don't even know how to play soccer, and I still liked this book!

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This book is really an adventure.  Set in 1900, it moves back and forth between Minnesota farmland, and the gold rush at Nome, Alaska.  Claims are jumped, fortunes are made, and dreams are shattered, all against the wild backdrop of the eastern Alaskan shorelines.  I really feel this is a great read for both men and women.  The main character is Essie, a capable young farm woman who flees her abusive husband and runs about as far away as she can get.  But she ends up in a man's world; a place teeming with machinery and men of all stripes.  As all the newcomers establish a foothold in this landscape that is so foreign to them, Essie's story unfolds, as does that of her husband, Leonard, and her new love interest, Nate.  This is not as heavy and political as, say, The Poisonwood Bible, but is every bit as adventurous and well researched.  The author's grandfather was a gold prospector in Nome, Alaska, from 1900-1902.  The amount of detail in the times and places was woven seamlessly in, and just made everything even more colorful.  The link for the book is here and it's got some great photos and author comments.  Just a really entertaining read, and with some beautiful, cut-glass phrasing to boot.  Highly recommended.   p.s.  A complementary movie to watch would be "Sweet Land" an absolutely wonderful movie set in MN.