Summer Reading Outcasts United Raises Awareness
June 26, 2013
BLOOMINGTON, Ill.— This year, the Illinois Wesleyan University community will read
Warren St. John’s Outcasts United: an American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a
Difference for Illinois Wesleyan’s Summer Reading Program.
The Summer Reading Program is designed to introduce incoming students to reading,
reflecting, discussing and writing critically about a text. It allows students to
engage in intellectual exchange with fellow newcomers and faculty and staff members.
The Advising and Summer Reading Committee, in coordination with the University's Speakers
Committee, has selected Outcasts United (2009) in keeping with the University’s mission. IWU’s mission includes a comprehensive
worldview toward citizenship and globalization, as well as a commitment toward social
justice and the value of diversity. Consistent with the University’s mission, St.
John’s story about the refugees and their struggle to assimilate and succeed in American
culture—and those who chose to adapt or resist changes the refugees brought to their
community—raises awareness and inspires questions and insights about social justice
and immigration, diversity and the impact of globalization.
The book is a true story about a soccer team from Clarkston, Ga., known as “The Fugees,”
formed entirely of refugee children, and about the woman who coached them, Luma Mufleh,
an immigrant herself.
The story takes place in a small hamlet, Clarkston, situated approximately 10 miles
from downtown Atlanta. According to the Outcasts United website, in the 1980s and 1990s, agencies for the resettlement of refugees chose
the town as a home for new arrivals. It was hoped the town’s proximity to downtown
Atlanta would help the refugees find employment. The earliest refugees were from Southeast
Asia, then refugees arrived from the conflicts in the Balkans, and later, from Africa
and the Middle East, radically changing the cultural landscape of the small southern
The new influx of immigrants faced resistance and sometimes hostility from the longtime
residents of Clarkston. As St. John observed, at Clarkston, soccer meant more than
just a game; it meant the game of the immigrants, with the immigrants sometimes being
called “the soccer people.” At the same time for the immigrant children from different
nationalities, soccer was an activity that bound them; based on this common ground
Mufleh helped the immigrant children build a new life in Clarkston.
According to a review in The Observer (the United Kingdom), “Outcasts United succeeds so emphatically because, just as
the Fugees are so much more than a football team, this is much more than a sports
book. St. John...has produced a dense and unjudgmental portrait of America in the
As a follow up on the summer reading program, St. John is scheduled to be the keynote
speaker at the President’s Convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 at 11 a.m., in
Westbrook Auditorium of Presser Hall (1210 Park St., Bloomington).
St. John has written for the New York Observer, The New Yorker, Wired and Slate, in addition to his work as a reporter for The New York Times. His first book, Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Journey into the Heart of Fan Mania (2004), was named one of Sports Illustrated’s best books of the year, and ranked number one on The Chronicle of Higher Education's list of the best books ever written about collegiate athletics. His second book,
Outcasts United was published in the U.S. in April 2009, and subsequently in the United Kingdom,
The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Japan and China.
Born in Birmingham, Ala., St. John attended The Altamont School. He studied English
literature at Columbia College in New York City, where he now lives with his wife
Contact: Mallika Kavadi’15 (309) 556-3181, email@example.com