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Ed. Magazine

Books: Exit

Exit book cover

ExitAll things must come to an end — or so the saying goes. And yet there are few lessons in our culture that teach us how to approach these exits, not only with grace and dignity, but also with purpose and understanding. In her latest book, Exit, Professor Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, Ed.D.'72, explores this phenomenon, which she argues is becoming troublesome in a society where departures have become the norm, with half of marriages ending in divorce, a rocky job market forcing high unemployment and frequent career changes, and tens of thousands of emigrants leaving their homes around the world each day. Taking into account the various dimensions of these exit moments, including the emotional, relational, intellectual, and developmental aspects, Lawrence-Lightfoot seeks to capture their importance in helping us move forward.

Drawing inspiration from dozens of interviews conducted over the course of a two-year period, Lawrence-Lightfoot focuses on the experiences of 11 individuals in particular, including an Iranian teenager forced to flee political strife and come to America alone, a middle-aged gay man and his coming out, a bullied child whose parents take him out of school, and a psychotherapist who guides abuse victims in an effort to finally "terminate" therapy. Using these stories of transitions and exits, Lawrence-Lightfoot provides readers with new wisdom, insight, and perspective. Simply by looking through the lens of an exit, the book slowly illuminates the different dimensions of our own life stories — from things like home and a parent's love, to the price of freedom and the meaning of grace — and demonstrates how they can be seen in a new light.

Representing a significant departure from our culture's tendency to glorify and applaud the promise of beginnings while dismissing and depreciating the exits that bring them, this book helps create a new conversation. While beginnings may be full of optimism and expectation, Lawrence-Lightfoot shows that there is always some "good" to be found in "goodbyes." Designed to challenge readers to reframe their own transitions and endings in a positive light, Exit is a book that strives to reveal the true power and value of exits and the deeper implications that they hold.

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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