The University of Tulsa Announces Common Read Program - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities

The University of Tulsa Announces Common Read Program

All incoming students will shortly receive a copy of Moshin Hamid’s Exit West, a novel about arrivals, departures, and discovery that will  play a key role in the first-year experience.

The first few days of college are a nervous blur of hellos and goodbyes as students open a new chapter in their lives. To launch this intellectual adventure, The University of Tulsa has created the Common Read program. Next month, every first-year student will receive a copy of Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, an award-winning novel about home, faith, love and hope. The incoming students will read the book before arriving on campus, where it will serve as a touchstone in orientation and in a series of events spanning the full academic year, including a visit from Hamid in the spring.

Last year, TU students, faculty and staff worked together to select this book that’s all about arrivals and departures, as well as the competing calls of the past and future. In Exit West, people step through magical doors and arrive somewhere else on the planet. Suddenly, anyone can travel anywhere as national borders dissolve and entire populations shift. These doors lead to discovery, escape, sites of violence and eventually a path toward homes old and new. In such a world, Hamid writes, “everyone was foreign and so, in a sense, no one was.”

The doors are more than just a bit of magic – they offer a way of thinking about what it means to be a stranger, about global refugees, about changing ideas of identity and even about the way that our digital devices become portals into the lives of people around the globe. Peer-led discussions and more formal sessions with faculty will provide an opportunity to explore such ideas across disciplines and majors within TU’s diverse yet cohesive intellectual community.

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,” Carson said.

Community 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.”

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 means his work speaks to many audiences.

Because TU’s Common Read is tightly linked to the theme of freedom, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities will host programs related to the book throughout the year. Hamid will visit campus on April 13, 2023, to deliver a free lecture open to the public. For more information, including an evolving list of events, visit the Common Read page.