The small-town American immigrant experience, as told by a Peruvian author who coached a high-school soccer team comprised of impoverished Latino students.
Time magazine contributor Cuadros spent a decade moving between big cities before finally settling in tiny Siler City, N.C. Here, the author begins by mapping out how he ended up in Siler City, explaining his yearning to write about the Latino immigrant life there and, by extension, throughout the country, and illustrating how this broad subject matter was whittled down to a telling chronicle of the triumphant rise of a local soccer team. Cuadros carefully relates the history of the town, but the bulk of his text concerns his job as a soccer coach in an area where the sport is popular, yet played, thanks to prohibitive cost, almost exclusively by white kids. He made some contacts at Jordan-Matthews High School and set about introducing a soccer program into their curriculum. He then moves on to chart the success of the program and the team of Latino players he eventually coaxed onto the field, while also illustrating the various pitfalls the players faced. From their lack of eligibility, to scenes of family tragedy, nothing is painted more vividly than Cuadros’s confiscating of a firearm that star player Enrique carried around to protect his mother, who had been robbed at gunpoint. The team would soon rise to success, and the author’s description of their victories is nicely balanced with a broad overview of Latinos’ relatively recent migration to the American South, with a conclusion infused with cautious optimism.
A worthy social commentary and biographical portrait that ends neatly with a list of each player’s post–high-school achievements.