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Exit West
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Exit West > Are you more of a Nadia, or more of a Saeed?

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message 1: by Matthew (last edited Jan 14, 2020 06:20AM) (new) - added it

Matthew Stewart (matthewstewart) | 41 comments Mod
Hello Tepper Readers!

So if we’re going with the assumption that we’re all reading a little over two pages per day so that we can finish the book by the time Mohsin Hamid is here in April, we should be have at least read through Chapter Three already.

What do you think so far? What’s going on with these flashes to different countries and different people around the globe? How do you think things will turn out in Nadia and Saeed’s country?

And how do you like Nadia and Saeed? Do you find them relatable at all? Are you more of a Nadia as a person, or are you more of a Saeed? There’s no wrong answer here – we are who we are.

While I love both Nadia and Saeed, and grow to love them more as the book goes on, I’d have to say that I’m closer to a Saeed. A bit more quiet and straight-laced, a bit more traditional, though I’ve often been attracted to people, both platonically and romantically, that are a lot like Nadia. I love her tenacity, her independent spirit, her rebellious nature, and I think Saeed does, too. It reminds me of a famous quote from Jack Kerouac's On the Road (a problematic text, I know, but one I loved when I was younger), where the novel’s main character, Sal Paradise, describes his first impressions of hanging out with soon-to-be-best-pal, Dean Moriarty:

“…I shambled after as I've been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’”

(P.S. - Please try to avoid spoilers if possible!)


message 2: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Stoner | 6 comments As someone who appreciates the character development in Exist West as one of its main strengths, I can identify with aspects of both Nadia and Saeed. There are parts of each of them that resonate with my own personality. For example, Saeeds’ closeness with his parents reminds me of my relationship with my own mother. And Nadia’s sense of wanting to push back against the sides of her culture that don’t sit well with her is something I have always felt.

And yet, I am entirely different than each character in some aspects, too. It is this way that stories allow us to see the multitudes in people – our similarities to their motivations, our differences, and all that’s in between – that I love so much about literature. It excites me that an author can give me access to the fact that I can feel the same and vastly different than someone else all at once.

That being said, for the purposes of this discussion, I am totally a Nadia! I definitely identify with the way she defines her life for herself in all the spaces where she is able. I, too, like to be under the radar with it, but I have a fully rebellious side and will take risks to further ideals that I believe in, even if they fly in the face of cultural norms.

Exit West, and the way it shows me Nadia’s complications – like a mirror – helps me to see that my own resolute determination is also complicated. It might be all right sometimes, and others may be a bit self-absorbed, a bit righteous. I see arriving at this awareness as an invitation to reflect, and to discover more about myself and about the world.


message 3: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel Ryave | 8 comments This is a great question and I think the question that is helping me realize why I prefer What We Lose to Exit West. I don't really feel a great deal of empathy toward Nadia or toward Saeed in the way that I did with Thandi. In Thandi I saw my own grief, struggles to fit in, family function and dysfunction, and misadventures in love. I don't strongly identify with Nadia's independence or Saeed's ability to be introspective. This may be also a function of my not understanding what it means to live in a place you don't know is safe; generally, I've spent my life in places where I am nothing but well-protected. I'm excited to see how other people respond to this question!


Matt Griffin | 10 comments I would definitely say that I'm more of a Saeed. His tendency to retreat into himself, whether it be in through dreams or prayer, is something I recognize in myself (although it manifests in different ways for me). He also has a internal strength that leads him to commit himself completely to the people and ideas that he believes in.

But there are parts of me that have always wanted to be more like Nadia, who in personality actually reminds me a lot of my brother. The ability to be unapologetically themselves and to follow their heart to rebellion is something I've always admired and envied.


message 5: by Lauren (new)

Lauren C. | 3 comments I am going to get Accelerate-Coachy-Coach here ... forgive me! If Saeed was a student who took the EQ Emotional Assessment, I suspect he would be very high in Empathy and Emotional Expression scores. Perhaps even in a out-of-balance way --- he has tendencies to overuse his Empathy in a way that suggests he is a people-pleaser at all costs.
To go along with this theme, I would say Nadia is high in Independence and Emotional Awareness. She may not express her emotions as well as Saeed, but my guess is that she experiences emotion quite deeply.

Now, taking off my Accelerate Coach hat: I'm definitely more of a Nadia. Small and easy example: I remember the first time I shaved my head back in high school: I used it as a defense mechanism; a challenge to authority, much like Nadia and her loosely-religious hijab (or was it a full burka?).
I also relate to Nadia being self-sufficient even though it was not glamorous or even easy. The passages about her little roof deck/lookout were so charming to me. There's something about a roof deck that makes one feel free, even if (like Nadia) danger feels imminent. I've never felt in danger where I've lived, like Nadia, but I think we've all had the sensation of temporary danger walking home at night in the dark. I can't imagine that being a "norm".


message 6: by Matthew (new) - added it

Matthew Stewart (matthewstewart) | 41 comments Mod
There is so much great discussion going on here! Really happy to see this.

Daniel, I, too, have never really felt unsafe in my surroundings, and I realize this is part of the privilege of who I was when I was born, and where I was (a white male in the US). What I think is so great about trying to enhance our empathy through reading, especially reading broadly, and reading books by people that are markedly different from us, is that you get exposed to all sorts of people, and beliefs, and ways of being that you might not be exposed to otherwise, and you realize that there are myriad ways of being, and that that's totally OK. This realization, though, about ourselves and others, helps strengthen our self-awareness and empathy. While Nadia and Saeed are people I may never meet in my day-to-day life, I get to know them intimately on the page and care deeply about them, and I'd like to think this transfers over to how I view and interact with people in real life, outside of books. Michelle put it elegantly in her post:

"It is this way that stories allow us to see the multitudes in people – our similarities to their motivations, our differences, and all that’s in between – that I love so much about literature. It excites me that an author can give me access to the fact that I can feel the same and vastly different than someone else all at once."

Matt, I'm glad to see there's another Saeed here who kind of wishes he could be more Nadia! I completely get where you're coming from.

Lauren, please keep getting coachy-coachy! Though I'm not an EQ expert like you and the rest of the coaches, I think your assessment of both our characters makes perfect sense. And I imagine those extremes you mentioned were created purposefully by the author - what happens when the end of the world, or what feels like the end of the world, happens to these two people who are kind of opposites? This is one of the many tensions that I think makes this book really special, and one that we can all relate to in both our working and personal lives. We're always going to encounter people who are very different from us, it's how we choose interact with them that matters. This is where empathy really comes into play. Also, I love Nadia's deck/balcony, too. And though I never shaved my head, there are terrible pictures somewhere at my mom's house of me in my bleached-and/or-dyed-hair-phase.

Finally, Michelle, I think our own Saeed-ness and Nadia-ness balance each other out pretty well, which is why we work so well together. Happy to be co-managing this programming with you!

Keep the discussion posts coming, all! This is great.

Daniel mentions What We Lose in his post, the book we read last year. If there are any first-years, or second/third-years who didn't participate last year, and you'd like a copy of that book, we do have a handful left over. Just drop me a line, or stop by the office to see me, and I'll give these out while supplies last.


Matt Griffin | 10 comments Not going to lie, I feel a little called out because I think Lauren was reading directly from my EQ report when she wrote her take on Saeed.

I really like Matt's point about them being opposite personalities experiencing the end of the world because their shared concerns and empathy is one of the things I love about these characters. While their external behavior differs, the author gives us a peek into their shared internal concerns for one another and the care they both taking in maintaining their relationship as the stress of their situation strains it.


message 8: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Stoner | 6 comments Completely agree about our yin yang thing, Matt S.!

It's so interesting to me that both Lauren and Matt mentioned their affection for Nadia's rooftop area because I was really taken by it, too. It feels like such a strong piece of insight into her character and of intimacy with her. I'm also really fond of her record player.

And I love how fictional stories encourage us to share our real-life stories with each other. Lauren, I shaved my head once, too!


message 9: by Daniel (new) - added it

Daniel Ryave | 8 comments Michelle wrote: "Completely agree about our yin yang thing, Matt S.!

It's so interesting to me that both Lauren and Matt mentioned their affection for Nadia's rooftop area because I was really taken by it, too. It..."


I think we need to see photographic evidence of Michelle AND Lauren's cool hairstyles! Who's withme??


message 10: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Stoner | 6 comments Trust me, Daniel. You do not!


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