Sunday, December 8, 2013

Those Crazy Dreamers

I used to have a powerful People Magazine habit.  I kicked it, much to the relief of my husband. But I remember what I liked best about it--story after story of people who clung to their crazy dreams.  Much to the consternation of all who knew and loved them, they threw their all into making jewelry, or raising ostriches, or singing in backwater bars in Texas.  And their dreams worked out.

So how about an entire book about somebody's dream?

In Outcasts United  by Warren St. John, Luma Mufleh grows up in a prosperous family in Jordan.  She can expect a good education, a good marriage, a few Mercedes in her driveway. But she just wants to go to the United States.  She's not sure what she wants to do there.  She ends up in an Atlanta suburb, coaching a girls' soccer team.

On a grocery run to a store that carries some of her favorite middle-eastern foods,  she makes a U-turn in an apartment parking lot and finds a group of barefoot boys playing soccer "with the sweaty mixture of passion, joy, and camaraderie" that she remembers from her own country.  As she learns more about these boys, her dream takes shape.

They come from Bosnia, Liberia, Afghanistan, the Sudan and other war-torn countries.  After fleeing murder and plunder, after living in refugee camps and applying for asylum, they find themselves settled in some dilapidated apartments in Clarkston, Georgia.

Clarkston, a peaceful town at the end of the commuter train line, isn't sure what has hit them, but they mostly don't like it.

At any rate, Luma forms a few soccer teams and begins coaching the boys. Clarkston's mayor refuses to let them practice on the greenest fields in town, relegating them a rutted, glass-strewn patch of dirt behind one of the town's worst elementary schools.  And the boys themselves present no small challenge.  "After the trauma of war and relocation, many refugee kids had severe psychological and behavioral problems."

Outcasts is a fascinating look at political asylum, a growing phenomenon in American life.  It is also an account of a woman who gives her all on the soccer field, as well as her car if they need rides, her wallet if they need groceries and her time, if their parents needs help filling out endless forms in a strange language.

I could never be Luma Mufleh.   For one thing, the woman has no time to cook, even something as quick as:  

French Toast Sandwiches 

This is your first installment of french toast sandwiches.  I tasted something similar and quite heavenly at the Frango Cafe in Chicago's downtown Macy's.  I intend to reproduce it at home and share it with you, so wish me luck and keep your griddle ready.