A Summer Reading Blog: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Kite running is the practice of running after drifting kites in the sky that have been cut loose in a kite fight.

I have found the best book to read if you are struggling to get back into reading consistently. The Kite Runner is a historical fiction novel by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini which has become arguably one of the most beloved books in the modern age. This first-person narrative follows Amir’s story and his struggle with guilt throughout his life after an event that had taken place twenty-six years before. When Amir was 12, he was your typical privileged Afgan boy growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan. Amir could have anything he wished for then, but there was one thing he strived for the most and was deprived of; an emotional connection with his father. The absence of his father’s affection fostered jealousy towards anyone who received it, so he was often passively aggressive towards his Hazara servant Hassan and his father, Ali. Though Hassan was a Hazara, which was an ethnic group affected by prejudice, he was Amir’s best friend growing up. The highlight event that changed the course of the book and Amir as a character happened during the winter of 1975 at a kite tournament where he committed a sin that remained unatoned until he returned to Afghanistan years later.

This story was written to be remarkable in my opinion; from the beautiful symbolic writing to the reflective teachings demonstrated, you can easily detect the amount of thought and effort that went into its craft. But what I found help built the compelling story the most was the strong sense of Afgan culture intertwined with the text and storyline. The family traditions, social customs, and religious values precisely allowed the reader to explore a new and perhaps different cultural territory that they may not have been acquainted with initially. For example, Hosseini incorporates various foreign words and expressions in his book amid the characters’ conversations. Though no definitions are provided, meanings are easily deciphered through contextual evidence. Including words from different dialects brings the reader into a distinct world where they may only be mere spectators, but in the end, gain consciousness of what others’ lives are like (keeping in mind that this story is based on historical events). Afgan culture was also evident in values Amir was taught at a young age which became a driving force to his rationale, such as the only sin there is according to Amir’s father, the variation of stealing. But then again, Kalehed Hosseini states, “Guilt, friendship, forgiveness, loss, and desire for atonement, and desire to be better than who you think you are. Those are not Afghan themes. Those are not Iranian or Chinese. Those are very human experiences.”

The text also offers insight into social, global, and other issues relevant. One being persistently alluded to is racism and prejudice, specifically between different ethnic groups in Afghanistan. This can be seen in the maltreatment towards individuals in the Hazara ethnic group, which emanates from the Pashtuns group. The Hazaras are people originally from Asia, and therefore have more Asian than Arabic features, were historically persecuted by the Pashtuns. Their physical characteristics and race are why they are discriminated against and less privileged than other Afghans. An example of this ill-treatment in the book can be seen towards Hassan. Growing up, Hassan was referenced continuously as having “dirty blood” and made fun of by Amir’s neighbors for being a “mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkey.” But even when Hassan was heavily picked on and disrespected, he always showed compassion towards others due to both his moral values and because if he didn’t, he might be subjected to racially motivated violence. Amir recognizes this as the book proceeds and reflects on how it must be for Hassan ‘to live with such an ingrained sense of one’s place in a hierarchy.’ Even Amir, when he was young, began to consider himself superior to his friend, a Hazara, though he was taught otherwise by Baba; it is no surprise that repeated exposure to prejudice in their social environment caused this belief. This was even the same belief that resurfaced when trying to justify his actions that winter day in 1975. In his last attempt to bear his guilt, Amir states, “He was just a Hazara, wasn’t he?”

The plot of The Kite Runner is always surprising to me; it may seem abrasive to some due to the shock value many of its twists and turns provide. Personally, this was the first book that genuinely made me feel sick to my stomach, frustrated, and even evoked strong emotions towards the ending, which were all feelings I didn’t know a text could produce in someone. I consider this my favorite book because of the depth evident in Amir’s phases of change to seek redemption after his betrayal to Hassan. His character development flourished richly to the point it almost seemed tangible. He demonstrates this search for fulfillment and many times attempts to bury his past, which he admits, always finds its way to claws its way out. Even if done unconsciously, this search for forgiveness shaped his identity into the character we were left with on the book’s last page. Many outside influences prompted most of these changes in Amir’s maturity and values. For example, when Baba and Amir had to leave Afghanistan for the US via Pakistan because of the Soviet invasion, which completely changed the environment and culture Amir lived his young adult life in. But what I found the most interesting was the reason why Amir sought forgiveness to the extent he did. My personal conclusion is that the Afgan society he lived in at the time never taught him how to move on from mistakes; rather, he learned that he should be shamed and punished for being cowardly, even though he was just a boy at the time of the incident. This is precisely what continued to nurture his guilt throughout his lifetime and the reason why he felt satisfaction and freed when getting violently beat-up by Assef years later, going back to Afghanistan.

Overall, there is so much heart to this story, which is exactly what escapes the pages and stays with you after reading it. Looking back now, I have learned an immense amount about Afghanistan culture that I doubt I would have been taught otherwise, for example, typical culinary food, or routine activities exercised like kite running, or even the simplest manners. All together, Afgan culture is very different from the one I am living in. Generally, in many parts of the world, middle eastern culture is usually stigmatized, so at the start, I didn’t know much about their values or identity. The perception I did have previously in some shape or form was tinted by preconceived notions and sculpted by stereotypes. Therefore, now I am glad that I have learned more about Afghan culture through the small, vivid, and delicate details that were incredibly relevant to me as a reader in Amir’s story.

The pomegranate tree is a recurring symbol of Amir and Hassan’s friendship seeing that when they were younger they would always play under one located near the entrance to the cemetery.

Questions 3: In what ways did the study of this text help you explore cultural values and/or identity?

Question 4: In what ways did this text offer insight into social, global, and real-world issues?

Questions 8: Discuss the ways in which your novel demonstrates that the search for identity can be a conscious or an unconscious process.

This is one of my favorite pages in “The Kite Runner” which can be found on page 43 of the novels digital copy.

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