Discussion Questions for the Introduction and Chapter One


In the opening pages of the Introduction, the author relates the reactions of two different groups of boys to low flying planes over the soccer field. What do you think the author wants to communicate with this?

What do we learn about the refugees from the Introduction?

What do we learn about the town of Clarkston?

On page 6, the author gives information about his connection to the Fugees and his project in writing the book. Why do you think he waits so long? What would the effect have been had he begun the book with this part and omitted the description of the soccer game?

From reading the Introduction, what do we learn about the author’s character and values? Which passages can be used as evidence to illustrate specific character traits and/or values?

What evidence from the Introduction suggests that the author is a credible reporter?

How does the example of Zubaid, the “tiny defender from Afghanistan” (7), function in the Introduction? What does it help the author do?

When the author says, “I saw a great deal of soccer over the next few months, but the most moving moments for me—and the most instructive and insightful—came not on the sidelines but over hot cups of sugary tea, over meals of stewed cassava or beans and rice, or platters of steaming Afghan mantu, on the sofas and floors of the apartments of refugees in Clarkston” (8), what is he revealing about himself, his values, and the kind of person he is?

On page 8, St. John compares soccer to basketball, football and baseball. What are the differences between these games, according to the author? And how does St. John use soccer as a “useful framework” for trying to understand this group of refugees?

When the author uses the metaphor of a lifeboat to describe Clarkston, referring to it as a “modest little boat that the locals thought they had claimed for themselves” (10), what is he suggesting? How does he want readers to understand this metaphor?


What do we learn about Luma’s family in the first pages of Chapter One?

How is the example of Luma making her cousins and sister run while she trailed behind in a car an example of, as St. John calls it, “tough love in action” (17)? What did it teach and how?

How does what we learn about Luma’s developing coaching philosophy foreshadow one of the main themes of the book? (1st full paragraph on page 20.)

What is Luma’s experience at Smith College, the women’s school in Northampton, MA.?

What competing pressures does Luma start to grapple with as she starts to grow older and begins coaching the junior varsity girls soccer team at the American Community School?

What American qualities and/or characteristics of life is Luma attracted to even though staying in America means making a serious break with her family?

What do readers learn about Warren St. John’s professional work ethic when he says, “Brown — who soon moved to Damascus, and later to Israel with her husband and family — lost touch over the years with her star player, but she kept Luma’s [baseball] glove from one move to the next …. ‘The webbing has rotted and come out,’ Brown told me from Israel, where I tracked her down by phone” (23).

Why was Luma “shaken up” when a handyman, who sought to impress her, showed her a robe and hood once worn by his grandfather” (24)?

Why were Luma’s friends afraid that she, “a Muslim woman from Jordan, wouldn’t fit in down in Dixie” (24)?

What is the purpose of this chapter? What does it help the author achieve with his readers?

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