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September 30, 2013
 

The Kite Runner: A triumphant read

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Written by: News Staff
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The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner by Khaled Kosseini  is a  sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years. The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic, a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

The author was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and history at a high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris. They were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, but by then their homeland had witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet Army. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States. Hosseini graduated from Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1988. The following year he entered the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, where he earned a medical degree in 1993. He completed his residency at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles and was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004.

In March 2001, while practicing medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner. Published by Riverhead Books in 2003, that debut went on to become an international bestseller and beloved classic, sold in at least seventy countries and spending more than a hundred weeks on the New York Timesbestseller list.

In Part 1, Amir, a well-to-do Pashtun boy, and Hassan, a Hazara who is the son of Ali, Amir’s father’s servant, spend their days kite fighting in the hitherto peaceful city of Kabul. Hassan is a successful “kite runner” for Amir; he knows where the kite will land without watching it. Amir’s father, a wealthy merchant Amir affectionately refers to as Baba, loves both boys, but is often critical of Amir, considering him weak and lacking in courage. Amir finds a kinder fatherly figure in Rahim Khan, Baba’s closest friend, who understands him and supports his interest in writing.

Assef, a notorious violent older boy, mocks Amir for socializing with a Hazara, which is, according to Assef, an inferior race whose members belong only in Hazarajat. One day, he prepares to attack Amir with brass knuckles, but Hassan defends Amir, threatening to shoot out Assef’s eye with his slingshot. Assef backs off but swears to get revenge.

One triumphant day, Amir wins the local kite fighting tournament and finally earns Baba’s praise. Hassan runs for the last cut kite, a great trophy, saying to Amir, “For you, a thousand times over.” However, after finding the kite, Hassan encounters Assef in an alleyway. Hassan refuses to give up the kite, and Assef beats him severely and rapes him. Amir witnesses the act but is too scared to intervene. He knows that if he fails to bring home the kite, Baba would be less proud of him. He feels incredibly guilty but knows his cowardice would destroy any hopes for Baba’s affections, so he keeps quiet about the incident. Afterwards, Amir keeps distant from Hassan; his feelings of guilt prevent him from interacting with the boy.

Part 2 continues  five years later as the Soviet Union militarily intervenes in Afghanistan. Amir and Baba escape to PeshawarPakistan, and then to FremontCalifornia, where they settle in a run-down apartment. Baba begins work at a gas station. After graduating from high school, Amir takes classes at a local community college to develop his writing skills. Every Sunday, Baba and Amir make extra money selling used goods at a flea market in San Jose. There, Amir meets fellow refugee Soraya Taheri and her family. Baba is diagnosed with terminal cancer but is still capable of granting Amir one last favor: he asks Soraya’s father’s permission for Amir to marry her. He agrees and the two marry. Shortly thereafter Baba dies. Amir and Soraya settle down in a happy marriage, but to their sorrow they learn that they cannot have children.

Amir embarks on a successful career as a novelist. Fifteen years after his wedding, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, who is dying, asking him to come to Peshawar. He enigmatically tells Amir, “There is a way to be good again.” Amir goes.

In Part 3, Amir learns that Ali was killed by a land mine and that Hassan and his wife were killed after Hassan refused to allow the Taliban to confiscate Baba and Amir’s house in Kabul. Rahim Khan further reveals that Ali, being sterile, was not Hassan’s biological father. Hassan was actually Baba’s son and Amir’s half-brother. Finally, he tells Amir that the reason he called Amir to Pakistan was to rescue Sohrab, Hassan’s son, from an orphanage in Kabul.

Amir, accompanied by Farid, an Afghan taxi driver and veteran of the war with the Soviets, searches for Sohrab. They learn that a Taliban official comes to the orphanage often, brings cash, and usually takes a girl away with him. Occasionally he chooses a boy, recently Sohrab. The director tells Amir how to find the official, and Farid secures an appointment at his home by claiming to have “personal business” with him.

Amir meets the man, who turns out to be Assef. Sohrab is being kept at his house, where he is sexually abused and made to dance dressed in women’s clothes. Assef agrees to relinquish him, but only for a price: severely beating Amir. Sohrab interrupts the beating by using his slingshot to shoot out Assef’s left eye, fulfilling Hassan’s threat made many years before.

Amir tells Sohrab of his plans to take him back to America and possibly adopt him. However, American authorities demand evidence of Sohrab’s orphan status. Amir tells Sohrab that he may have to temporarily break his promise until the paperwork is completed, and Sohrab attempts suicide. Amir eventually manages to take him back to the United States. After his adoption, Sohrab refuses to interact with Amir or Soraya until the former reminisces about Hassan and kites and shows off some of Hassan’s tricks. In the end, Sohrab only gives a lopsided smile, but Amir takes it with all his heart as he runs the kite for Sohrab, saying, “For you, a thousand times over.”

In March 2001, while practicing medicine, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner. Published by Riverhead Books in 2003, that debut went on to become an international bestseller and beloved classic, sold in at least seventy countries and spending more than a hundred weeks on the New York Timesbestseller list.

In 2006, Hosseini was named a Goodwill Envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. Inspired by a trip he made to Afghanistan with the UNHCR, he later establishedThe Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which provides humanitarian assistanc



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