TU's 2022 Common Read: "Exit West" by Mohsin Hamid - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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TU’s 2022 Common Read: “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid

What happens when we leave home—when we take a person out of place and the place out of a person? Exit West, TU’s first-ever Common Read, explores both questions. We are always, it seems, both escaping and arriving in equal measure. When we walk away from something, we’re walking towards something else.  Anxiety mixes with excitement as a new sense of self emerges from our rootedness in the past and our openness to the future.

The book encourages us to think about strangers, refugees, friends, faith, and family. In our digital and global condition, we are, all the time, becoming—becoming ourselves and becoming others.

Such challenges become particularly pressing at the start of college, when we are everywhere surrounded by new people, places, and ideas.  Amid the frenzy of those first few weeks, the Common Read program provides a shared intellectual touchstone.  Working with faculty, peer-mentors, and advisors, new students will explore the book’s often challenging ideas starting in orientation, continuing across specially designed programs throughout the year, and culminating in a spring visit by the author.

Common Read activities will be overseen by the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, a TU-based research institute that hosts lectures, concerts, exhibitions and other events. The center’s 2022-23 theme is freedom. Sean Latham, the center’s director, calls Exit West “an extraordinary work of creativity that dares us to imagine a new world without ever losing sight of the irreducible yet vital differences that define our human condition.”

  • The Common Read and The First-Year Experience

    College is a place to make connections, to dig deeply into a whole range of topics then try to piece it all together into a big picture that will help launch you launch a successful life and career.  The push and pull between the specialized and the general can be disorienting, and it’s easy to lose sight of the connective tissues running between people, culture, technology, and the natural world.

    The Common Read program at TU offers a piece of common ground for the entire incoming class to share.  It will be a conversation starter: the book you loved or hated, ranted about or celebrated with other students while in line for coffee. In your first days and weeks on campus, it will help form the connective tissue a college education tries to create.

    University President Brad R. Carson, who initiated this program, calls Common Read a hallmark of world-class universities: “By establishing the Common Read, a unique bond is forged among first-time students and between the new students and our outstanding professors. We are living our mission of cultivating interconnected learning experiences, exploring different cultures, and fomenting a lifelong love of learning.”

  • Why Tulsa?

    Exit West is about the intersection of the local and the global, about the ways in which we fashion our sense of identify from an ever-shifting mix of the old and new. Tulsa itself is a city of migrants, fashioned by the generations who have moved—sometimes willingly and other times not—across the plains to try and make a home in the sweeping bend of the Arkansas River.

    We live in a city filled with shifting histories, some painful and others inspiring.  The city marks the end of the Trail of Tears and remains an urban center of Native American life and identity. Greenwood Rising, a downtown Tulsa initiative, provides a “gateway to Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District” that “honors the icons of Black Wall Street, memorializes the victims of the massacre, and examines the lessons of the past to inspire meaningful, sustainable action in the present.” Once the sight of horrific racist violence, the area is now home to a thriving arts, cultural, business, and technology initiatives.

    Tulsa remains a leader in energy and natural gas, helping power the United States and world through innovation.  An emerging hub for cybersecurity efforts, it also draws talent from the around world to help power a a new generation of digital technologies.  And recently, the city worked with TU and Catholic Charities to welcome 801 Afghan migrants to the United States.


    Tulsa is also a musical and cultural portal, recalling the legacy of Woody Guthrie, born in nearby Okemah, Oklahoma. Guthrie helped create a distinctly American idiom of musical expression. His legacy is preserved in the Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan centers in Tulsa’s bustling Arts District.

    There are portals everywhere in this city, and Exit West provides us a way of thinking about all the pathways you might follow that cross our campus, weave their ways through Tulsa, and extend around the world.

  • Some Questions to Consider as You Read
    1. How does Exit West complicate the border between the local and the global? How does the book trouble stable definitions of migrant and native?
    2. The book invites us to consider all the doors (real and symbolic) that exist in our world, from the cell phone in your pocket to the strangers you meet in the dorm. Do you find it difficult to be in one place at one time?
    3. The book seems to suggest that we are all, in some way or another, migrants. Is that true? How has travel, change, or moving changed your sense of home?  And what parts of home do you carry with you, no matter what?
    4. Is this a hopeful book? How is hope fed by resources like faith, family, friendship, and struggle?
  • About the Author: Mohsin Hamid

    Hamid is British novelist who grew up in Pakistan then moved to the United States where he attended Princeton University, earning a degree in international affairs while studying with renowned novelists Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates.

    After graduating from Harvard Law, he began a successful career as an international business consultant while crafting a string of critically acclaimed novels. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of the “100 Leading Global Thinkers,” and his novels have won or been shortlisted for dozens of awards.  His unique background in law, literature, business, and government policy establishes him as a dynamic multidisciplinary artist and thinker.

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