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WestportREADS 2019: About

Keynote Talk with Author Mohsin Hamid

Date: Tuesday, Mar 12, 2019 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM (This Event Has Passed)

Location: Saugatuck Elementary School,170 Riverside Avenue

Join us for a video chat with the Mohsin Hamid, author of this year's selection, Exit West. This award-winning novel follows two refugees who, against all odds, find life and love on the run. The conversations sparked included the timely topics of change, compassion and migration, as well as the richness gained through shared cultures. The book was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award and named a top ten best book of 2017 by the New York Times.


How Do I Get a Copy of Exit West?

In addition to numerous copies of Exit West available to borrow from our collection, we will have a display stocked with books that are free to take. You will notice that the books come with this bookplate on their inside cover. We hope that you will read the book and pass it on to someone else to enjoy. If you don't know anyone to give it to, feel free to bring it back to the library and leave it on the display for someone else to pick up. And if this book means something special to you, feel free to keep it, reread it, engage with it to your heart's content. 

Our Q&A with Mohsin Hamid


Q: What inspired you to write this story?

MH: I have migrated my whole life -- from Pakistan to California at age 3, back to Pakistan at 9, to America again at 18, to Britain at 30, and back to Pakistan nine years ago. I am a thoroughly mongrelized person, a complete hybrid. So I find the current anti-migrant sentiment that one encounters all over the world to be very troubling indeed. I wanted to write in response to that.

Q: Why did you choose to use magic realism to tell the story of Nadia and Saeed?

MH: I'm not sure I would call it magical realism, although I don't object to that label. For me, technology is functioning to obliterate geographic distance. The black rectangles of our mobile phone screens let our minds travel instantly to any point in the world -- and beyond, for that matter. The black rectangles of the doors in my novel simply allow people's bodies to do the same. Sometimes one has to bend reality slightly to explore what reality is.

Q: How do you see this novel fitting within the current world landscape?

MH: I think that human beings, like all animals, have always moved. Homo sapiens didn't evolve in Westport. People came there from somewhere else. The Westport of 200 years in the future will be as different from the Westport of today as the Westport of today is from the Westport of 200 years ago. We need to become more accepting of change -- it happens whether we wish it to or not.

Q: What would you like Westporters to take from reading Exit West?

MH: There isn't a single message, or a puzzle that readers have to solve. The novel will hopefully make people feel things, and when we feel things, we change. Perhaps I am drawn to the idea that everyone is a migrant, and that we need to have more compassion for the migrant within each of us.


WestportREADS 2019 is funded by the estate of Jerry A. Tishman.