Our selection process for the On the Same Page featured text begins in January for the following year. A selection committee made up of four faculty members and one librarian spends the spring term reading widely in search of books or other works that will be a good fit for the program. At the end of spring, each committee member names three or four titles that he or she would like the rest of the committee to consider. Over the summer the committee members read one another's top picks. At the end of summer, the committee meets in person to choose three or four of these titles, which become our finalists. Over the fall term a team of thirty to fifty undergraduates read the finalist texts and submit input electronically. The L&S deans also spend the fall term reading the finalist texts. In December the deans meet, and, taking into consideration all the input from the selection committee and the student reviewers, they choose the text that will be featured in the following year.

The result of this rigorous process in 2019 was the selection of Exit West for the On the Same Page featured text of 2020. It met all of our program's criteria: for instance, it's well written, thought provoking, and open to interpretation and analysis from many disciplinary standpoints. Its author is someone our students would benefit from encountering, and the book is nearly impossible to put down. It's an election year, and issues surrounding migration are intrinsic to a lot of the debates amongst the candidates. Student reviewers offered comments such as these:

"It's very captivating! I started reading it yesterday and finished it today. It's moving, and emotional, and the story is definitely compelling on multiple levels."

"The ways in which this book humanizes and makes real the challenging experiences of migrants is crucial and impactful in today's world."

"Strong writing, compelling plot and interesting character development." 

"Good storyline. I like how it feels real. It’s relevant."

"I think anyone could engage with this book! It's particularly interesting that the country the protagonists are from is never explicitly named; I think one of the points of the book is to be open to interpretation and engagement from many different people, and hopefully shift the normal assumptions about migrants and refugees."

"Students interested in stories, in learning more about the experiences of immigrants, and in understanding new perspectives and imagining how the world is from another's perspective would love this book. It is written in a very engaging way and is a captivating read." 

We are fortunate that Mr. Hamid has agreed to visit our campus to kick off the program in August. Students who attend his keynote event are sure to be inspired by his message, and they will learn first hand that one of the many advantages of attending a university of Berkeley's caliber is the opportunity to encounter authors and other notable figures in person. 

Let the stimulating discussions of this celebrated work begin!