Book Review: A Home on the Field by Paul Cuadros

A Home on the Field (2007) by Paul Cuadros is the story of rapid cultural changes in the small agricultural town of Siler City, NC.  Prompted by offers of work from chicken processing plants and construction firms, more and more Latin Immigrants are settling into this community with their children.  Cuadros, a journalist, went to rural North Carolina in search of a story about this quiet immigration but instead found himself advocating for a soccer team at the local high school.  Soccer was a way that Cuadros felt would help assimilate that newcomers as well as keeping young men in school and helping them learn loyalty and discipline.

Not too mention having fun and kicking some butt.  Once Cuadros fields a team they immediate success in their conference and participate in the state championship tournament in each of the three seasons documented in this book.  But getting on the field is a challenge of its own as Cuadros has to fight the power elite of the school system and face down racist opposition from David Duke himself!

In many ways this book is very similar to Outcasts United – a Southern town, an influx of immigrants, culture clashes, and ultimately hope for America’s future.  There’s also the tough but caring coach.  Cuadros is no Luma Mufleh on the harshness scale, but he does end up suspending star players before a key game due to fighting.  The big difference in this book is that the coach is also the author.  I found Cuadros’ writing style a bit dull at first, and considered giving up after 50-pages.  The game descriptions in particular seemed cliched in that they always began in media res and then pulled back for the big picture of the game in progress.

But I’m glad I stuck with this book as I really warmed up to Cuadros and his players and their story.  Cuadros also has some really insightful commentary on the controversy over immigration.  Cuadros also relates some harrowing tales of his players making journeys across the border returning from visits to family.  These boys grow up way too fast.

Cuadros also offers some critique of the way soccer is played in the United States as a “country club” diversion of suburban middle class who stick to a boring and predictable style of the play.  Hopefully scouts from Major League Soccer, NCAA schools, and US Soccer will read this book and Outcasts United.  The children of immigrants are the future of our nation and should figure in our national soccer scene as well.

Favorite Passages

“[Duke] had said it all for everyone in America who views the migration and Latinos the way he does.  They didn’t want the workers or their families living in their towns but the sure wanted their chicken.  And that was all that mattered.  America spoke with its stomach and it wanted its tomatoes picked, its cucumbers gathered, its blueberries busheled, its hamburger ground, its pork processed, its Thanksgiving Day turkeys slaughtered, its Christmas trees cut, and its chickens butchered, and it didn’t care much how that was done as long as the people who brought its food were kept invisible and cheap.

Duke had spent two hours bashing the very workers who had brought him his fried chicken.  He didn’t even realize the full extent of his hypocrisy. … If they were sincere about recuding illegal immigration, they could take a stand and refuse to buy these products.  They could stop eating fried chicken, bacon, hamburgers, steaks, lettuce, turkey, hot dogs, tomatoes, grapes, wine; and stop purchasing other products like furniture and textiles; and deny themselves services like landscaping and construction.  But I suspect that, like Duke, most would simply help themselves to a nice plate of chicken.” – p. 55-56

Author : Cuadros, Paul.

Title : A home on the field : how one championship team inspires hope for the revival of small town America / Paul Cuadros.

Edition : 1st ed.

Published : New York : Rayo, c2006.

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