By Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini’s novel chronicles the lives of Amir and Hassan against the background of pre- and post-Taliban Afghanistan. As the son of a prominent town official and businessman, Amir soon realizes that his relationship with Hassan, the son of his father’s servant, cannot endure the effects of social class and war. After witnessing a tragic attack upon Hassan by wicked boys who will grow up to become Taliban leaders, Amir is filled with guilt over his inability to defend and protect Hassan. The constant reminder of the event—Hassan himself—becomes Amir own target of derision and ridicule. Overwhelmed with guilt and shame, Amir eventually decides to trick his father, Baba, into removing Hassan and his father, Ali, from their home.
Afghanistan is soon plummeted into war with Russia, and Amir and Baba narrowly escape to America where they build a new, if much less affluent, life together. Thoughts of Hassan and Ali are relegated to the corners of Amir mind; and the now young-adult Amir pursues a career as a writer and marries a beautiful Afghani woman, Soraya, also a refugee. Then an unexpected call from one of Baba’s old friends, Rahim Khan, plunges Amir into a life-changing journey into a war-torn, barren, and dusty Kabul where he reconciles his relationship with his old friend, Hassan, through the nephew he never knew he had.
The Kite Runner is a deeply moving novel about betrayal and reconciliation that gave our heavy-reading group ample opportunity to discuss the virtues of Fidelity, Charity, and Hope. The Courage and Temperance of Hassan during his childhood, and of Amir during his return to Kabul as an adult, also struck a chord with many students. In addition, they were largely unfamiliar with the socio-political and historical backdrop to this novel; therefore we spent several sessions discussing the history of Afghanistan and the Middle East, as well as U.S. involvement during the Russian invasion and Taliban insurgence. Contemporary issues in Afghanistan became clearer through the stories of Amir and Hassan.
After the completion of the novel, we screened the film The Kite Runner based on the book. Students quickly noted the shallow and laborious plot, and all agreed that the novel far surpassed the film. This was insightful, as few had ever read a book before seeing a movie before this group. Students who completed The Kite Runner before the end of the sessions also received Hosseini’s second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns as well as Marjane Satrapi’s critically acclaimed Persopolis, a graphic novel about her childhood in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. As a complimentary community service project, we spent the afternoon making school and hygiene care packets for refugees in Afghanistan at the Mennonite Central Committee in Goshen, Indiana. Students seemed to leave this group with a new sense of the larger world and a greater appreciation of the virtues of Middle Eastern cultures.