From Refugees To Politics, Mohsin Hamid Writes The Change He Wants To See

Author Mohsin Hamid’s new novel, Exit West, is about knowing when it’s time to flee your country, and what happens when you migrate to a nation that’s hostile to immigrants. It’s a topic the author himself is personally familiar with.

Hamid was born in Lahore, Pakistan, but spent part of his childhood in California. As a young adult, he lived in New York and London before returning to Lahore with his wife to raise their children. He tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that moving from country to country initially made him feel like “kind of freak,” but as he got older, his outlook changed.

“I became more and more comfortable just being myself, a kind of mongrelized, hybridized, weird sort of character,” Hamid says. “What I started to realize was everybody feels a bit foreign … even people who have lived in the same place.”

Exit West is about a young couple who have to decide whether to leave their home in an unnamed city that is slowly being overtaken by militants. Hamid says it’s just a coincidence that the book was published shortly after President Trump announced his revised travel ban. He says that while his novel doesn’t explicitly address the ban, the themes it raises — about who belongs and who doesn’t — are directly related to the ban.

“Above all, [the travel ban is] about who has the right to move and who doesn’t have the right to move,” he says. “I think that when we take the long view, the notion that some people are deemed less worthy of being able to move — to not have the right to cross borders — over time that’s going to seem as outmoded and as unfair, really, as racial discrimination or other kinds of discrimination.”

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