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The Book of Unknown Americans



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Essay Contest


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nominations for
2019-20 are now OPEN


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2018-19 Essay Contest
[printable pdf]

Nadia and Saeed live in an unnamed city, in an unnamed country on the brink of an unnamed war. As their world falls apart around them, their love grows in their text messages and during furtive visits. As the civil war worsens, the two lovers manage to escape through a door to the west. Reaching a “safe” haven is not all that they hoped it would be, though. Using magical realism, Exit West examines the plight of refugees as well as the limitations of love in a time of chaos.

Here’s your chance to tell your own story in an essay related to Chaffey’s 2018-2019 College Book—you need not have passed through a mysterious portal to apply. You can describe a brush with danger, oppression, or harassment or perhaps relate a tale of adventure, resistance, or resilience. You may choose to write about a time when you felt ostracized or included, vulnerable or empowered, destitute or triumphant. You might share a story about falling in or out of love, moving to a new place or leaving your past behind, facing a crisis, taking a risk, asserting your independence, pursuing a forbidden relationship, recognizing a desirable or unattractive quality in a loved one, experiencing luxury or deprivation, or undergoing any other “magical” or life-changing event. In fact, you’re welcome to submit any essay that clearly connects with Exit West.

Deadline: Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Visit to submit your essay now through Wednesday, March 27th, 2019. Essays up to 1,500 words in length will be judged on originality, compelling content, and the quality of written expression. Up to ten finalists will receive a cash prize and will read their essays at an awards ceremony on Monday, April 22nd, 2019 from 6-8 pm in Student Life (CCE).

For more information, contact Professor Neil Watkins (652-6952,
or Professor Deckard Hodge (652-6924,

Rev. 10/19/18

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