Dear Members of the Class of 2022,
A central feature of Skidmore's First-Year Experience is the Summer Reading Program, the purpose of which is twofold. First, we want to highlight the fact that education is not confined to the classroom or the academic calendar; on the contrary, the process of learning is ongoing, and we hope you will begin thinking (and reading) like a college student before you even get to campus. Second, we want to provide the entire first-year class with a common intellectual experience centered on a challenging topic. The Summer Reading helps us accomplish these goals.
For the Class of 2022, the FYE has chosen Exit West, the latest novel by bestselling Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid. Exit West appeared on numerous lists of “Best Books” for 2017 and was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. Last month it also won the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize, awarded to “an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture.”
Exit West follows two young lovers from an unnamed country as they make the difficult decision to leave a war zone in search of a better life. But their escape mechanism has a fantastical element: they are transported from their homeland, and later move across the globe, through secret doors known only to migrants. Passing through each door is an exercise in both desperation and courage, since there is no way to know in advance where one might end up. The FYE Selection Committee feels that this book speaks especially well to the contemporary refugee crisis while also inviting discussion about the relations between politics and art.
Information will be forthcoming about a signature event for the entire first-year class focused on this book; please watch the FYE website for details. There will also be ample opportunity for students and faculty to discuss the book and the issues it raises in their seminar groups.
All first-year students are expected to read and contemplate this book in its entirety prior to their arrival on campus. While no single book will sufficiently prepare you for the breadth of academic work you will encounter at Skidmore, we believe that this initial reading offers a starting point. Enjoy the book, enjoy the summer, and come to campus prepared and excited to begin your undergraduate journey. We look forward to welcoming you.
Janet G. Casey
Director, First Year Experience
Professor of English