Outcasts United chosen for All Hamptons Read, a four-town reading projectHamptons United Soccer Tournament Pix!
The public libraries in "the Hamptons" (Easthampton, Northampton, Southampton and Westhampton) have come together to organize All Hamptons Read, a community reading program based on Warren St. John's Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference. This nonfiction work, a national bestseller, tells the inspiring story of Smith alumna Luma Mufleh's work in the greater Atlanta community of Clarkston establishing a soccer program for the children of war refugees and the transformation of a small American town.
Our goals for this project are to encourage reading and promote literacy, to help foster a sense of community by bringing people together to share the experience of reading and responding to the same book, and to bring to light issues which affect our communities. As individual libraries, we have organized successful community reading events in the past. By joining together we will strengthen our community ties and the reach of our program. Our choice of Outcasts United is one that the group believes will achieve our goals in many different ways.
Outcasts United is an uplifting story of a small town in Georgia with a large and varied refugee population. A young woman originally from Jordan with a love of soccer is inspired to form youth soccer teams as a way to help the refugee children in the community. Luma Mufleh, the coach, is a '97 graduate of Smith College, so there is a local connection; and the issues the book raises about traditional communities in transition, refugees and the love of soccer are also relevant here.
A project of this scope requires extensive collaboration between not only the libraries but also the schools and community organizations. The committee is partnering with Northampton's Human Rights Commission, the Veterans Education Project, Forbes Library in Northampton, Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton, Edwards Public Library in Southampton, Westhampton Public Library and Lilly Library in Florence, to organize and implement the events. Official co-sponsors include Florence Savings Bank, Easthampton Savings Bank, the Friends of the Library organizations in all four towns, and other community organizations.
"All Hamptons Read is a widespread celebration of reading. With Outcasts United and its important subjects of refugees, immigration, soccer, and community building, anyone who opens the pages of this book will find something that speaks to them. With the four communities coming together, people will also be able to speak to each other on these issues, and find the discussion doesn't end with the last page,” said Kristi Chadwick, Director of the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton.
"The intention of a community reading event is to bring the communities together around a book. This year's four-town-wide All Hamptons Read program is a celebration of reading, as well as a vehicle to get us thinking about and discussing important issues to do with refugees and the impact of immigration on communities," said committee chair Nancy Felton of Broadside Bookshop.
"As librarians we believe in the power of books to spark discussion and dialogue,” added committee member Lisa Downing of the Forbes Library. "We are very excited that the 'Hamptons have come together in this way. This book tells an uplifting story that is sure to reach readers on intellectual and emotional levels."
Copies of Outcasts United will be available at the community libraries and independent bookstores, and can be read at leisure over the summer. You are invited to pick up a copy and join in the events. These will feature book discussion groups, film screenings, a soccer event led by war refugees now living in the Pioneer Valley, an international food tasting and a public panel discussion with war refugees who have settled in our community.