In the US, we encourage diversity. We strive to get people of different genders, ethnicities, and religions to live in harmony, so when Americans see a Hazara and a Pashtun (both different ethnic groups in Afghanistan) out together, they don’t think anything of it. It comes as a surprise to Americans that friendships between Pashtuns and Hazaras are socially unacceptable in Afghanistan. This proves to be a hard social normality for characters to overcome in The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
This book is a riveting story of a boy’s struggle between saving the people he cares about or surviving in society himself. It is told from the perspective of Amir, a rich Pashtun in Afghanistan. Amir begins his narration at his childhood. He lives with his dad whom he calls Baba. Amir also lives with his two servants, Ali and his son, Hassan. Ali and Baba grew up together and wanted their children to grow up together too, so when Ali’s wife left him directly after giving birth to Hassan and Baba’s wife died during childbirth, Baba and Ali decided to raise their kids together. Amir and Hassan, as well as Baba and Ali, loved each other like family, but never used the word “friends” to describe their relationship. Because Ali and Hassan were poor Hazaras, it was unacceptable for them to be considered friends with rich Pashtuns Baba and Amir. This was never an issue for Hassan and Amir, until one day they were out playing together when Assef, a bully strongly against the mixing of cultures, saw them playing and threatened to beat them up. He almost did until Hassan aimed his slingshot and threatened to blind Assef in one eye by hitting it with a rock. Aseff walked away but swore he would be back to get them. Later in the year, after school gots out, Hassan and Amir participated in their neighborhood’s kite cutting tournament. This is a tournament in which boys compete in pairs, one flying a kite, trying to cut other’s kites down and the other boy in the pair, the kite runner, runs to get the kites that were cut. Amir’s kite was the last one standing, all he needed was Haasan to retrieve the last kite for him. Hassan ran to go fetch the kite, but after not returning for quite some time, Amir went looking for him. He found Hassan in a cave, being harassed by Assef, and witnessed something terrible that would haunt him for the rest of his life, but he didn’t tell anyone because he didn’t want to look like he cared too much about a Hazara. This creates conflict for Amir later in life.
I would highly recommend this book to all readers, especially Americans, as it has helped me gain a different perspective on the lives of people in the Middle East. It is a story that not only asks whether it is better to conform to or question society’s normalities, but it also comments on the way Americans view Middle Eastern countries. When Americans think of the Middle East, many would argue that the people there are all anti-american and are what cause events like 9/11. The Kite Runner shows American readers that most Middle Easterners are not terrorists, but that they are humans with real emotions and families of their own. Although this book may be a challenge for the faint of heart, it is a book everyone should read. It will keep you up all night because of its sorrowful nature, but also because you won’t be able to turn away.
Not only does this book get my recommendation, but it is also a New York Times bestseller, a San Francisco Chronicles Best Book of the Year, and has received praise from the Washington Post, People Magazine, Diane Sawyer, and many others. The Kite Runner created waterfalls of tears from readers across the world, and continues to share perspective to all of its readers after 12 years of being published.
Book Review by Alaina Agnello