I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini for the first time when I was seventeen. It was my senior year of high school and it had been assigned for my AP English class. At the time, I was not yet the reader that I am today. I did my fair share of reading, but it wasn’t as much of an integral piece of my identity as it is now. With that being said, something about this book stuck with me and that is why I wanted to talk about it for this week’s Throwback Thursday.
At the time, I did not know as much about the political climate of Afghanistan. I did not have a clue of what it used to be like before. For people my age, we were not alive at the time when Afghanistan was a monarchy and we did not know the world before the coup that would place the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan into power. People my age grew up in a world where the United States had been fighting to drive the Taliban out of power for what seemed like our entire lives, even though we were already a few years old when the invasions began.
Therefore, it was a shock to us all when our teacher had us read a book about the revolution. It was an even greater shock to see it through the perspective of a child. A child does not understand what it means when it is announced over the radio that their home country is now a Republic instead of a Monarchy. Reading the book’s portrayal of a child hearing this announcement and then proceeding to go play in a tree with their Hazara friend will leave you utterly speechless.
I say this is a book that changed me, because it was the first politically-driven book that I could really relate to. Not in the sense of it being a portrayal of my own home country and a political climate I was personally living in, but I was no longer reading Gulliver’s Travels, a satire on eighteenth-century English society. Here I was, reading an eye-opening depiction of life in Afghanistan: what it was and how it changed.
When you’re young, it is easy to become tricked into thinking the world how you know it is how it always has been. You slowly learn that this is wrong, because you understand that America is no longer a collection of colonies, but a collection of states. You know that slavery is no longer legal here and that separate is inherently unequal, no matter how you slice it. But Afghanistan? A place so far away, yet a name you hear so often? Surely it must have always been that way.
Khaled Hosseini rocked my entire existence when he revealed to me how different Afghanistan was. To watch the change that would overcome Baba and Amir’s lives and how Baba went from being a successful businessman in Afghanistan to pumping gas in the United States was jolting enough, but what of Ali and Hassan? Ali was the servant of Baba and Hassan his son. They were Hazara, members of the minority in Afghanistan and often looked down upon by the Pashtun.
This conflict between the two would become the foundation of the book, with reminders on every page of the fact that Hazara were seen as lower than the Pashtun. Why was Amir looking for Hassan if he is a Hazara? Why do they play together? Why does Hassan get beaten and raped? Why can the families not remain together? Why can Baba not claim Hassan as his son, if that was his true identity?
After Ali and Hassan left and after the coup had occurred, Baba and Amir fled Afghanistan and even for a wealthy man and his son this process was difficult. They had to ride in an oil truck and breathe in the fumes while they were brought to the safe haven of Pakistan. If they were going through this, what about Ali and Hassan? Later we would learn that they were killed, but what of their lives in the meantime?
These are just a few questions that The Kite Runner will bring to your mind. I write this now, six years after my first time reading it, and these thoughts still bring chills to the back of my neck. The Kite Runner is not a book you will read for fun. You will read it to learn, but it will teach you some of the most beautiful lessons of forgiveness, strength, and remembrance. With everything going on right now, I could not think of a better time to read such an insightful book.
Please be sure to tune back in next week for the next Throwback Thursday.