One Book, One Chicago Explores Beyond Borders with Exit West

Join us for One Book, One Chicago 2020 as we explore the theme "Beyond Borders" and the book Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. 

From September to December, read Exit West with other Chicagoans. The New York Times bestseller is an astonishingly visionary love story that imagines the forces that drive ordinary people from their homes into the uncertain embrace of new lands. In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through…

This season explores themes of immigration, refuge, home and family. How has our family’s journey influenced who we are today? How do we tell our immigration stories? What does it mean to be an American? How do we honor and celebrate our cultural background, and how do our backgrounds influence and complement each other, especially in a “melting pot” of America? What if, as in the book, there were a world without borders?


We'll offer over 40 virtual programs as well as book discussions, recommended reading lists, digital content and web TV series from September through December that will explore these questions. Highlights include:

  • Keynote program: Author Mohsin Hamid in conversation on CPL’s YouTube channel, 7 p.m. Thursday, December 3
  • Path to Citizenship workshops: Join representatives from HIAS Immigration & Citizenship to learn about the journey from permanent resident (Green Card holder) to U.S. citizen. English/Spanish.
  • Celebrating Our Journeys: Programs celebrating the journeys of the cultures that influenced Chicago, including Native Journeys: Dr. Anton Treuer; American Warsaw: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of Polish Chicago with Dominic Pacyga; Citizen Illegal: Poet Jose Olivarez and Fashion Beyond Borders with Hoda Katebi.
  • Learn New Skills: CPL librarians host workshops to teach you new skills that explore culture, including cooking web TV show Snacks in the Stacks, workshops to get help with genealogy research using CPL's online resources, and video demonstrations of cultural crafts with Art Beyond Borders.
  • Web TV series Chicago Neighborhoods Beyond Borders: Join urbanologist Max Grinnell for episodes of One Book neighborhood tours, featuring 10 episodes exploring neighborhoods across Chicago and how immigration and migration has affected them.
  • Book clubs and discussion groups citywide