The Kite Runner [NOOK Book]


The New York Times bestseller and international classic loved by millions of readers.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is 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, ...
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The Kite Runner

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The New York Times bestseller and international classic loved by millions of readers.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father's servant, The Kite Runner is 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.

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.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
"I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975." So begins The Kite Runner, a poignant tale of two motherless boys growing up in Kabul, a city teetering on the brink of destruction at the dawn of the Soviet invasion.

Despite their class differences, Amir, the son of a wealthy businessman, and Hassan, his devoted sidekick and the son of Amir's household servant, play together, cause mischief together, and compete in the annual kite-fighting tournament -- Amir flying the kite, and Hassan running down the kites they fell. But one day, Amir betrays Hassan, and his betrayal grows increasingly devastating as their tale continues. Amir will spend much of his life coming to terms with his initial and subsequent acts of cowardice, and finally seek to make reparations.

Hosseini's depiction of the cruelty children suffer at the hands of their "friends" will break your heart. And his descriptions of Afghanistan both before and after the war will haunt readers long after they've read the last page. The Kite Runner is a stunning reminder that the dark hearts of adults are made, step-by-step, by the hatred they learn as children, and that all it takes for evil to triumph is for a good man to stand back and do nothing. (Summer 2003 Selection)

...this extraordinary first novel locates the personal struggles of everyday people in the terrible sweep of history.
The Washington Post
Hosseini clearly loves his country as much as he hates what has become of it. — Pamela Constable
Albuquerque Journal
Hosseini's book is more than a typical coming-of-age story. Rather it is about personal salvation, betrayal, and redemption.
The New York Times
In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence -- forces that continue to threaten them even today. — Edward Hower
San Jose Mercury News
...ranks among the best-written and most provocative stories of the year...enlightening and fascinating...intimate and poignant. (June 29, 2003)
Publishers Weekly
Hosseini's stunning debut novel starts as an eloquent Afghan version of the American immigrant experience in the late 20th century, but betrayal and redemption come to the forefront when the narrator, a writer, returns to his ravaged homeland to rescue the son of his childhood friend after the boy's parents are shot during the Taliban takeover in the mid '90s. Amir, the son of a well-to-do Kabul merchant, is the first-person narrator, who marries, moves to California and becomes a successful novelist. But he remains haunted by a childhood incident in which he betrayed the trust of his best friend, a Hazara boy named Hassan, who receives a brutal beating from some local bullies. After establishing himself in America, Amir learns that the Taliban have murdered Hassan and his wife, raising questions about the fate of his son, Sohrab. Spurred on by childhood guilt, Amir makes the difficult journey to Kabul, only to learn the boy has been enslaved by a former childhood bully who has become a prominent Taliban official. The price Amir must pay to recover the boy is just one of several brilliant, startling plot twists that make this book memorable both as a political chronicle and a deeply personal tale about how childhood choices affect our adult lives. The character studies alone would make this a noteworthy debut, from the portrait of the sensitive, insecure Amir to the multilayered development of his father, Baba, whose sacrifices and scandalous behavior are fully revealed only when Amir returns to Afghanistan and learns the true nature of his relationship to Hassan. Add an incisive, perceptive examination of recent Afghan history and its ramifications in both America and the Middle East, and the result is a complete work of literature that succeeds in exploring the culture of a previously obscure nation that has become a pivot point in the global politics of the new millennium. (June 2) Forecast: It is rare that a book is at once so timely and of such high literary quality. Though Afghanistan is now on the media back burner, its fate is still of major interest and may become even more so as the U.S.'s nation-building efforts are scrutinized. 10-city author tour; foreign rights sold in Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Israel, Spain, Sweden and the U.K. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This painful, moving, remarkable debut novel depicts the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of a deeply flawed protagonist. Growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, Amir feels unloved by his widowed father, who seems to care more for Hassan, the son of their Hazara servant, Ali. Amir and Hassan are close but not quite friends. On what should have been the best day of his young life, when he wins a kite-flying contest and finally some respect from his father, Amir betrays Hassan and becomes haunted by guilt. Amir comes to California when the Soviets invade his country but returns years later to rescue Hassan's orphaned son from the Taliban and redeem himself. Hosseini, a physician in the San Francisco area, has a wonderful gift for developing distinctive characters and creating a strong sense of place. While far from polished, his narration offers a profound sincerity that might have been missing with a professional reader. A sad and violent yet beautiful and unforgettable story; highly recommended for all collections, especially those with interests in the American immigrant experience.-Michael Adams, CUNY Graduate Ctr. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This beautifully written first novel presents a glimpse of life in Afghanistan before the Russian invasion and introduces richly drawn, memorable characters. Quiet, intellectual Amir craves the attention of his father, a wealthy Kabul businessman. Kind and self-confident Hassan is the son of Amir's father's servant. The motherless boys play together daily, and when Amir wins the annual kite contest, Hassan offers to track down the opponent's runaway kite as a prize. When he finds it, the neighborhood bullies trap and rape him, as Amir stands by too terrified to help. Their lives and their friendship are forever changed, and the memory of his cowardice haunts Amir as he grows into manhood. Hassan and his father return to the village of their ancestors, and later Amir and his father flee to Los Angeles to avoid political persecution. Amir attends college, marries, and fulfills his dream of becoming a writer. When Amir receives word of his former friend's death under the Taliban, he returns to Kabul to learn the fate of Hassan's son. This gripping story of personal redemption will capture readers' interest.-Penny Stevens, Andover College, Portland, ME Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Here’s a real find: a striking debut from an Afghan now living in the US. His passionate story of betrayal and redemption is framed by Afghanistan’s tragic recent past. Moving back and forth between Afghanistan and California, and spanning almost 40 years, the story begins in Afghanistan in the tranquil 1960s. Our protagonist Amir is a child in Kabul. The most important people in his life are Baba and Hassan. Father Baba is a wealthy Pashtun merchant, a larger-than-life figure, fretting over his bookish weakling of a son (the mother died giving birth); Hassan is his sweet-natured playmate, son of their servant Ali and a Hazara. Pashtuns have always dominated and ridiculed Hazaras, so Amir can’t help teasing Hassan, even though the Hazara staunchly defends him against neighborhood bullies like the "sociopath" Assef. The day, in 1975, when 12-year-old Amir wins the annual kite-fighting tournament is the best and worst of his young life. He bonds with Baba at last but deserts Hassan when the latter is raped by Assef. And it gets worse. With the still-loyal Hassan a constant reminder of his guilt, Amir makes life impossible for him and Ali, ultimately forcing them to leave town. Fast forward to the Russian occupation, flight to America, life in the Afghan exile community in the Bay Area. Amir becomes a writer and marries a beautiful Afghan; Baba dies of cancer. Then, in 2001, the past comes roaring back. Rahim, Baba’s old business partner who knows all about Amir’s transgressions, calls from Pakistan. Hassan has been executed by the Taliban; his son, Sohrab, must be rescued. Will Amir wipe the slate clean? So he returns to the hell of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and reclaims Sohrab from aTaliban leader (none other than Assef) after a terrifying showdown. Amir brings the traumatized child back to California and a bittersweet ending. Rather than settle for a coming-of-age or travails-of-immigrants story, Hosseini has folded them both into this searing spectacle of hard-won personal salvation. All this, and a rich slice of Afghan culture too: irresistible. Author tour. Agent: Elaine Koster
Boston Globe
Soaring Debut.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Exquisite. A wonderfully conjured story that offers a glimpse into an Afghanistan most Americans have never seen, and depicts a side of humanity rarely revealed.
The Denver Post
A beautiful novel. Ranks among the best-written and most provocative stories of the year so far. Hosseini is an exhilaratingly original writer with a gift for irony and a gentle, perspective heart.
Entertainment Weekly
A moving portrait of modern Afghanistan.
The New York Times Book Review
This powerful first novel...tells the story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love. Both transform the life of Amir, Khaled Hosseini's privileged young narrator, who comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy, just before his country's revolution and its invasion by Russian forces. But political events, even as dramatic as the ones that are presented in The Kite Runner, are only a part of this story. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence—forces that continue to threaten them even today.
The Washington Post Book World
A powerful frills, no nonsense, just hard, spare intimate account of family and friendship, betrayal and salvation that requires no atlas or translation to engage and enlighten us. Parts of The Kite Runner are raw and excruciating to read, yet the book in its entirety is lovingly written.
From the Publisher
"A wonderful work... This is one of those unforgettable stories that stay with you for years. All the great themes of literature and of life are the fabric of this extraordinary novel: love, honor, guilt, fear redemption...It is so powerful that for a long time everything I read after seemed bland." — Isabel Allende
"Stunning . . . an incisive, perceptive examination of recent Afghan history. . . It is rare that a book is at once so timely and of such high literary quality." — Publisher's Weekly

“In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence — forces that continue to threaten them even today.” — New York Times

“A haunting morality tale.” — USA Today

“His passionate story of betrayal and redemption is framed by Afghanistan’s tragic recent past . . . Rather than settle for a coming-of-age or travails-of-immigrants story, Hosseini has folded them both into this searing spectacle of hard-won personal salvation. All this, and a rich slice of Afghan culture too: irresistible." — Kirkus Reviews

“Like Gone with the Wind, this extraordinary first novel locates the personal struggles of everyday people in the terrible sweep of history.” — People

“To many Western readers, [Afghanistan’s] can be an exhausting and bewildering history. But Hosseini extrudes it into an intimate account of family and friendship, betrayal and salvation that requires no atlas or translation to engage and enlighten us.” — Washington Post

“Hosseini does tenderness and terror, California dream and Kabul nightmare with equal aplomb. . .a ripping yarn and ethical parable.” — Globe and Mail

"A beautiful novel . . . a song in a new key. Hosseini is an exhilaratingly original writer with a gift for irony and a gentle, perceptive heart . . . one of the most lyrical, moving and unexpected novels of the year." — Denver Post

Children's Literature - Kristin Sutton
As Amir and Hassan deal with the trials of normal childhood in Afghanistan, they must also deal with class discrepancies and an impending war. As their culture threatens, and eventually succeeds, in tearing them apart, Amir finds his life irreversibly changed by the acts of cruel children who consistently bully Hassan because of his class. This historically educational novel goes on to tell of Amir and his father's escape from Afghanistan and the life they create in America. But even after years in America, during which he loses his father and finds a wife, Amir returns to Afghanistan where he learns of his father's ancient secret. Stunned to learn that his recently deceased childhood friend, whom he has not seen in years, was in fact his half brother, Amir embarks on an adventure to rescue Hassan's son from the Afghani government. This novel portrays friendship at its strongest, spanning years and distance to bring Amir and Hassan back together in spirit if nothing else. Reviewer: Kristin Sutton
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101217238
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/27/2004
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 7,065
  • File size: 771 KB

Meet the Author

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini one of most widely read and beloved novelists in the world, with more than ten million copies sold in the  United States of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, and more than thirty-eight million copies sold worldwide in more than seventy countries. His third novel, And the Mountains Echoed, will be published May 21, 2013. Hosseini is also a Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency, and the founder of The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, a nonprofit that provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan. He lives in northern California. To learn more about his foundation, please visit

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    1. Hometown:
      Sunnyvale, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 4, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kabul, Afghanistan
    1. Education:
      B.S. in biology, Santa Clara University, 1988; M.D., UC San Diego School of Medicine, 1993
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


December 2001

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it's wrong what they say about the past, I've learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.

One day last summer, my friend Rahim Khan called from Pakistan. He asked me to come see him. Standing in the kitchen with the receiver to my ear, I knew it wasn't just Rahim Khan on the line. It was my past of unatoned sins. After I hung up, I went for a walk along Spreckels Lake on the northern edge of Golden Gate Park. The early-afternoon sun sparkled on the water where dozens of miniature boats sailed, propelled by a crisp breeze. Then I glanced up and saw a pair of kites, red with long blue tails, soaring in the sky. They danced high above the trees on the west end of the park, over the windmills, floating side by side like a pair of eyes looking down on San Francisco, the city I now call home. And suddenly Hassan's voice whispered in my head: For you, a thousand times over. Hassan the harelipped kite runner.

I sat on a park bench near a willow tree. I thought about something Rahim Khan said just before he hung up, almost as an afterthought. There is a way to be good again. I looked up at those twin kites. I thought about Hassan. Thought about Baba. Ali. Kabul. I thought of the life I had lived until the winter of 1975 came along and changed everything. And made me what I am today.


When we were children, Hassan and I used to climb the poplar trees in the driveway of my father's house and annoy our neighbors by reflecting sunlight into their homes with a shard of mirror. We would sit across from each other on a pair of high branches, our naked feet dangling, our trouser pockets filled with dried mulberries and walnuts. We took turns with the mirror as we ate mulberries, pelted each other with them, giggling, laughing. I can still see Hassan up on that tree, sunlight flickering through the leaves on his almost perfectly round face, a face like a Chinese doll chiseled from hardwood: his flat, broad nose and slanting, narrow eyes like bamboo leaves, eyes that looked, depending on the light, gold, green, even sapphire. I can still see his tiny low-set ears and that pointed stub of a chin, a meaty appendage that looked like it was added as a mere afterthought. And the cleft lip, just left of midline, where the Chinese doll maker's instrument may have slipped, or perhaps he had simply grown tired and careless.

Sometimes, up in those trees, I talked Hassan into firing walnuts with his slingshot at the neighbor's one-eyed German shepherd. Hassan never wanted to, but if I asked, really asked, he wouldn't deny me. Hassan never denied me anything. And he was deadly with his slingshot. Hassan's father, Ali, used to catch us and get mad, or as mad as someone as gentle as Ali could ever get. He would wag his finger and wave us down from the tree. He would take the mirror and tell us what his mother had told him, that the devil shone mirrors too, shone them to distract Muslims during prayer. "And he laughs while he does it," he always added, scowling at his son.

"Yes, Father," Hassan would mumble, looking down at his feet. But he never told on me. Never told that the mirror, like shooting walnuts at the neighbor's dog, was always my idea.

The poplar trees lined the redbrick driveway, which led to a pair of wrought-iron gates. They in turn opened into an extension of the driveway into my father's estate. The house sat on the left side of the brick path, the backyard at the end of it.

Everyone agreed that my father, my Baba, had built the most beautiful house in the Wazir Akbar Khan district, a new and affluent neighborhood in the northern part of Kabul. Some thought it was the prettiest house in all of Kabul. A broad entryway flanked by rosebushes led to the sprawling house of marble floors and wide windows. Intricate mosaic tiles, handpicked by Baba in Isfahan, covered the floors of the four bathrooms. Gold-stitched tapestries, which Baba had bought in Calcutta, lined the walls; a crystal chandelier hung from the vaulted ceiling.

Upstairs was my bedroom, Baba's room, and his study, also known as "the smoking room," which perpetually smelled of tobacco and cinnamon. Baba and his friends reclined on black leather chairs there after Ali had served dinner. They stuffed their pipes-except Baba always called it "fattening the pipe"-and discussed their favorite three topics: politics, business, soccer. Sometimes I asked Baba if I could sit with them, but Baba would stand in the doorway. "Go on, now," he'd say. "This is grown-ups' time. Why don't you go read one of those books of yours?" He'd close the door, leave me to wonder why it was always grown-ups' time with him. I'd sit by the door, knees drawn to my chest. Sometimes I sat there for an hour, sometimes two, listening to their laughter, their chatter.

The living room downstairs had a curved wall with custom-built cabinets. Inside sat framed family pictures: an old, grainy photo of my grandfather and King Nadir Shah taken in 1931, two years before the king's assassination; they are standing over a dead deer, dressed in knee-high boots, rifles slung over their shoulders. There was a picture of my parents' wedding night, Baba dashing in his black suit and my mother a smiling young princess in white. Here was Baba and his best friend and business partner, Rahim Khan, standing outside our house, neither one smiling-I am a baby in that photograph and Baba is holding me, looking tired and grim. I'm in his arms, but it's Rahim Khan's pinky my fingers are curled around.

The curved wall led into the dining room, at the center of which was a mahogany table that could easily sit thirty guests-and, given my father's taste for extravagant parties, it did just that almost every week. On the other end of the dining room was a tall marble fireplace, always lit by the orange glow of a fire in the wintertime.

A large sliding glass door opened into a semicircular terrace that overlooked two acres of backyard and rows of cherry trees. Baba and Ali had planted a small vegetable garden along the eastern wall: tomatoes, mint, peppers, and a row of corn that never really took. Hassan and I used to call it "the Wall of Ailing Corn."

On the south end of the garden, in the shadows of a loquat tree, was the servants' home, a modest little mud hut where Hassan lived with his father.

It was there, in that little shack, that Hassan was born in the winter of 1964, just one year after my mother died giving birth to me.

In the eighteen years that I lived in that house, I stepped into Hassan and Ali's quarters only a handful of times. When the sun dropped low behind the hills and we were done playing for the day, Hassan and I parted ways. I went past the rosebushes to Baba's mansion, Hassan to the mud shack where he had been born, where he'd lived his entire life. I remember it was spare, clean, dimly lit by a pair of kerosene lamps. There were two mattresses on opposite sides of the room, a worn Herati rug with frayed edges in between, a three-legged stool, and a wooden table in the corner where Hassan did his drawings. The walls stood bare, save for a single tapestry with sewn-in beads forming the words Allah-u-akbar. Baba had bought it for Ali on one of his trips to Mashad.

It was in that small shack that Hassan's mother, Sanaubar, gave birth to him one cold winter day in 1964. While my mother hemorrhaged to death during childbirth, Hassan lost his less than a week after he was born. Lost her to a fate most Afghans considered far worse than death: She ran off with a clan of traveling singers and dancers.

Hassan never talked about his mother, as if she'd never existed. I always wondered if he dreamed about her, about what she looked like, where she was. I wondered if he longed to meet her. Did he ache for her, the way I ached for the mother I had never met? One day, we were walking from my father's house to Cinema Zainab for a new Iranian movie, taking the shortcut through the military barracks near Istiqlal Middle School-Baba had forbidden us to take that shortcut, but he was in Pakistan with Rahim Khan at the time. We hopped the fence that surrounded the barracks, skipped over a little creek, and broke into the open dirt field where old, abandoned tanks collected dust. A group of soldiers huddled in the shade of one of those tanks, smoking cigarettes and playing cards. One of them saw us, elbowed the guy next to him, and called Hassan.

"Hey, you!" he said. "I know you."

We had never seen him before. He was a squatty man with a shaved head and black stubble on his face. The way he grinned at us, leered, scared me. "Just keep walking," I muttered to Hassan.

"You! The Hazara! Look at me when I'm talking to you!" the soldier barked. He handed his cigarette to the guy next to him, made a circle with the thumb and index finger of one hand. Poked the middle finger of his other hand through the circle. Poked it in and out. In and out. "I knew your mother, did you know that? I knew her real good. I took her from behind by that creek over there."

The soldiers laughed. One of them made a squealing sound. I told Hassan to keep walking, keep walking.

"What a tight little sugary cunt she had!" the soldier was saying, shaking hands with the others, grinning. Later, in the dark, after the movie had started, I heard Hassan next to me, croaking. Tears were sliding down his cheeks. I reached across my seat, slung my arm around him, pulled him close. He rested his head on my shoulder. "He took you for someone else," I whispered. "He took you for someone else."

I'm told no one was really surprised when Sanaubar eloped. People had raised their eyebrows when Ali, a man who had memorized the Koran, married Sanaubar, a woman nineteen years younger, a beautiful but notoriously unscrupulous woman who lived up to her dishonorable reputation. Like Ali, she was a Shi'a Muslim and an ethnic Hazara. She was also his first cousin and therefore a natural choice for a spouse. But beyond those similarities, Ali and Sanaubar had little in common, least of all their respective appearances. While Sanaubar's brilliant green eyes and impish face had, rumor has it, tempted countless men into sin, Ali had a congenital paralysis of his lower facial muscles, a condition that rendered him unable to smile and left him perpetually grim-faced. It was an odd thing to see the stone-faced Ali happy, or sad, because only his slanted brown eyes glinted with a smile or welled with sorrow. People say that eyes are windows to the soul. Never was that more true than with Ali, who could only reveal himself through his eyes.

I have heard that Sanaubar's suggestive stride and oscillating hips sent men to reveries of infidelity. But polio had left Ali with a twisted, atrophied right leg that was sallow skin over bone with little in between except a paper-thin layer of muscle. I remember one day, when I was eight, Ali was taking me to the bazaar to buy some naan. I was walking behind him, humming, trying to imitate his walk. I watched him swing his scraggy leg in a sweeping arc, watched his whole body tilt impossibly to the right every time he planted that foot. It seemed a minor miracle he didn't tip over with each step. When I tried it, I almost fell into the gutter. That got me giggling. Ali turned around, caught me aping him. He didn't say anything. Not then, not ever. He just kept walking.

Ali's face and his walk frightened some of the younger children in the neighborhood. But the real trouble was with the older kids. They chased him on the street, and mocked him when he hobbled by. Some had taken to calling him Babalu, or Boogeyman. "Hey, Babalu, who did you eat today?" they barked to a chorus of laughter. "Who did you eat, you flat-nosed Babalu?"

They called him "flat-nosed" because of Ali and Hassan's characteristic Hazara Mongoloid features. For years, that was all I knew about the Hazaras, that they were Mogul descendants, and that they looked a little like Chinese people. School textbooks barely mentioned them and referred to their ancestry only in passing. Then one day, I was in Baba's study, looking through his stuff, when I found one of my mother's old history books. It was written by an Iranian named Khorami. I blew the dust off it, sneaked it into bed with me that night, and was stunned to find an entire chapter on Hazara history. An entire chapter dedicated to Hassan's people! In it, I read that my people, the Pashtuns, had persecuted and oppressed the Hazaras. It said the Hazaras had tried to rise against the Pashtuns in the nineteenth century, but the Pashtuns had "quelled them with unspeakable violence." The book said that my people had killed the Hazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their women. The book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras was that Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi'a. The book said a lot of things I didn't know, things my teachers hadn't mentioned. Things Baba hadn't mentioned either. It also said some things I did know, like that people called Hazaras mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys. I had heard some of the kids in the neighborhood yell those names to Hassan.

The following week, after class, I showed the book to my teacher and pointed to the chapter on the Hazaras. He skimmed through a couple of pages, snickered, handed the book back. "That's the one thing Shi'a people do well," he said, picking up his papers, "passing themselves as martyrs." He wrinkled his nose when he said the word Shi'a, like it was some kind of disease.

But despite sharing ethnic heritage and family blood, Sanaubar joined the neighborhood kids in taunting Ali. I have heard that she made no secret of her disdain for his appearance.

"This is a husband?" she would sneer. "I have seen old donkeys better suited to be a husband."

In the end, most people suspected the marriage had been an arrangement of sorts between Ali and his uncle, Sanaubar's father. They said Ali had married his cousin to help restore some honor to his uncle's blemished name, even though Ali, who had been orphaned at the age of five, had no worldly possessions or inheritance to speak of.

Ali never retaliated against any of his tormentors, I suppose partly because he could never catch them with that twisted leg dragging behind him. But mostly because Ali was immune to the insults of his assailants; he had found his joy, his antidote, the moment Sanaubar had given birth to Hassan. It had been a simple enough affair. No obstetricians, no anesthesiologists, no fancy monitoring devices. Just Sanaubar lying on a stained, naked mattress with Ali and a midwife helping her. She hadn't needed much help at all, because, even in birth, Hassan was true to his nature: He was incapable of hurting anyone. A few grunts, a couple of pushes, and out came Hassan. Out he came smiling.

As confided to a neighbor's servant by the garrulous midwife, who had then in turn told anyone who would listen, Sanaubar had taken one glance at the baby in Ali's arms, seen the cleft lip, and barked a bitter laughter.

"There," she had said. "Now you have your own idiot child to do all your smiling for you!" She had refused to even hold Hassan, and just five days later, she was gone.

Baba hired the same nursing woman who had fed me to nurse Hassan. Ali told us she was a blue-eyed Hazara woman from Bamiyan, the city of the giant Buddha statues. "What a sweet singing voice she had," he used to say to us.

What did she sing, Hassan and I always asked, though we already knew-Ali had told us countless times. We just wanted to hear Ali sing.

He'd clear his throat and begin:

On a high mountain I stood, And cried the name of Ali, Lion of God. O Ali, Lion of God, King of Men, Bring joy to our sorrowful hearts.

Then he would remind us that there was a brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that not even time could break.

Hassan and I fed from the same breasts. We took our first steps on the same lawn in the same yard. And, under the same roof, we spoke our first words.

Mine was Baba.

His was Amir. My name.

Looking back on it now, I think the foundation for what happened in the winter of 1975-and all that followed-was already laid in those first words.

--from The Kite Runner: A Novel by Khaled Hosseini, Copyright © 2003 Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Interviews & Essays


Where did the idea for this story come from?
That's not an easy question to answer because it developed over time. During the past couple of years I had been mulling over the notion of writing a story set in Afghanistan but I couldn't decide on the right story or the right time period. At first I considered writing about the Taliban but I felt that particular story had already been told -- it's an issue that has been well covered and by people far more qualified than myself. I knew if I was going to tell an Afghan story I'd have to tell one that had something new to offer. So I decided the story would have to take place, at least partially, in an Afghanistan that seemingly no one remembered anymore: the pre-Soviet War Afghanistan.

Why do you say it's a time no one seems to remember any more?
For most people in west Afghanistan had become synonymous with the war against the Soviets, the Taliban and repression. I wanted to remind people that it wasn't always like that. I wanted to remind them that there was an Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion of 1979, and that Afghanistan had enjoyed decades of peace without anyone firing so much as a rocket. The old adage in writing is to write what you know. Having lived through that time period in Kabul -- the final years of the monarchy, the birth of the Republic, and the first years of Daoud Khan's leadership -- I felt comfortable writing about it.

What was the other incident that inspired your novel?
It involved a kid named Moussa, who was also an ethnic Hazara. Moussa lived with his mother across the street from us in a partially constructed home. Theneighborhood where we lived, and that I used in the book, was called Wazir Akbar Khan. It was a district in northern Kabul, a fairly affluent and new neighborhood that was still being developed. And sometimes people hired folks to keep watch over their homes as they were being built. So this kid and his mother were living across the street from us. From time to time we'd play soccer with him or fly kites. One day, I was maybe ten years old, my brother and I were sitting on our garden wall when we noticed Moussa across the street in the yard of his place. We all had these little mirrors and we were playing around with them -- using them to shine the reflected sun in each other's eyes from one side of the street to the other. The guy who was a cook for my family at the time walked out, saw us playing, and said, ‘Oh, is that Moussa over there?' I said, ‘Yes.' He nodded and said, kind of casually -- and forgive me for saying this -- ‘You know I've been fucking him for the last month.' My brother and I didn't know what that meant. We asked around and eventually found out. We never told anybody. I guess we were scared of the cook. And even back then I think we realized if we had told it was quite possible no one would have cared. The character that ended up being Hassan was a fusion of these two people: Hussein Khan and Moussa. Once he came to life, so did his alter ego, Amir, who then turned out to be the protagonist and the voice of the novel -- the person to whom the story's moral dilemmas present themselves.

How much of The Kite Runner is autobiographical?
Inevitably there will be bits and pieces of yourself, either consciously or subconsciously, that end up in your protagonist. Fortunately there aren't that many autobiographical things in the book. I don't have that much in common with Amir. I say ‘fortunately' because for a good portion of the story he's not exactly the most savory of characters. But there certainly are things about him that come from my own life. Perhaps the most prominent is that, like Amir, I grew up admiring my father greatly and had a very intense desire to please him. Thankfully it was not with quite the same fervor that Amir had. I think his brand of admiration borders on the pathological. Fatherhood in Afghanistan is a greatly revered institution. When people identify someone they say, ‘He's the son of so-and-so...' and they always mention the father. Tribal identity also comes from the father. Even if your mother is a Pashtun you can't inherit Pashtun status unless your father is one as well. So like a lot of Afghan kids I grew up revering my dad [to a certain extent]. Fortunately for me he reciprocated the affection and to this day we maintain a warm and wonderful relationship. And there are a couple of other things that might be worth mentioning. Amir and I also developed a love for reading and writing at an early age. And just like Amir, when I was a kid I used to love going to the theater to see Hindi and American films. They decided to move to America -- I think in large part because of the opportunities they felt this country would offer for their children.

You're planning a return trip to Afghanistan with your brother-in-law in March or April of this year. Where do you plan to go?
The places I really want to go back and see are the places where I have personal memories. I'm dying to see my father's old house in Wazir Akbar Khan where I grew up and the hill north of the house with its abandoned graveyard where my brother and I used to play. I want to see the various bazaars in Kabul where we used to hang out and my old school. I'd also like to see the foreign ministry where my father used to work. I remember him taking us there when we were kids and how incredibly huge it looked to me then. I'd love to revisit the mosques my dad would sometimes take us to on Fridays and the kababi house in Shar-e-nau (the New City), which I recently learned is still standing and which is still owned and operated by the same guy who owned it when I was a kid. Then there are some places of general interest I'd like to visit: Bala Hissar in Southeast Kabul, the old city fortress and walls, a site of infighting between mujaheddin factions; Baghi Babur, the garden of the tomb of the 16th-century Mogul emperor Babu; Bagh-I-Bala, the home of a 19th-century king, now a posh restaurant, located high on a hill with a view of the city; and Darulaman, the old royal palace -- once a beautiful building surrounding by trees and lawns. We used to go there for family picnics when I was a kid. I understand it has been pretty badly damaged.

Some news organizations have expressed interest in sending a reporter or camera crew with you to Afghanistan when you return. But there has already been plenty of reporting from Afghanistan. Why should they be interested in accompanying you there?
Much of the reporting that we've seen about Afghanistan, and the stories we've heard, has been through the eyes of westerners. I'd be able to bring present day Afghanistan back with me, with my own take, and with the eyes of someone who has had the benefit of having seen the country in better days and who would be able to provide some perspective.

This will be the first time you're returning to Afghanistan in 27 years. What do you hope to accomplish?
Beyond wanting to go for purely nostalgic reasons I want to go back and talk to the people on the street. I want to get a sense of what life is like now in Kabul and a sense of where people think their country is headed. I want to see if I can put a finger on the emotional pulse of the city. I also hope to come back with a sense of optimism. I want to see the signs of reconstruction -- concrete evidence that there may be hope for Afghanistan after all because for so long the only thing we ever heard from there were reports of killings, genocide, repression, natural disasters, poverty and hunger.

Do you have any reservations or fears about returning to Afghanistan and to Kabul?
My main concern is one of safety. I have a two-year-old son and a ten-day-old daughter. Although I understand Kabul is pretty well guarded that can't be said about areas off the beaten path. And I'm dreading a little bit seeing some of the destruction and ruin. I imagine going back will be like going back and seeing an old friend you haven't seen in a long time and finding him destitute, sick, poor and homeless. I do fear that a bit. Initially I think it will be emotionally difficult. Everyone who goes back says the first couple of days leave you in a state of shock. Dust covers the entire city; the smell of diesel fumes is pervasive no matter where you go; there are ruins and debris everywhere you look; and the trees are all destroyed (either cut down for fuel or by the Soviets years earlier to thwart snipers who used them for cover). I think it will take some getting used to but I also think once the initial shock wears off I'll be fine.

Are you going knowing full well what to expect or are you not sure what you'll find?
I'm not sure what I'm going to find. Depending on who you listen to the situation is either really optimistic or totally hopeless. A good friend of mine named Tamim Ansary, an Afghan writer from San Francisco who wrote that very famous e-mail about 9/11 that ended up circulating around the world, went back to Afghanistan last June. When he returned to the U.S. he brought back with him a real sense of hope. He said the people he saw in the street, and the people he spoke with, were very optimistic about their future and where the country was headed and were ready to put behind them all the atrocities of the Taliban and the war.

Tamim said it was very safe and he had no trouble at all getting around Kabul. On the other hand, another gentleman I recently spoke with, who was back in Afghanistan a couple of months ago, said the situation was hopeless; that no progress is being made; that there's rampant corruption; and that people's outlook is very bleak. The bottom line is that I don't know what I'm going to find. I'm very much looking forward to seeing the situation for myself and making my own judgments.

One of the most pervasive images of Afghanistan in your novel is the depth to which its culture is all about family. How much family do you still have there?
Virtually everybody I know has been out of the country for a long time. I have no immediate family, or even extended family, left in Kabul but there are people I know who never left and there are people who have now moved back. In fact my brother-in-law's father is there. I also have a first cousin who still lives in Herat. I hope I'll be able to get there at some point during the trip and see her. We exchanged letters just before 9/11 but then we lost contact.

What are your thoughts on what's happened in the last couple of years in Afghanistan?
During the Taliban era you couldn't read about Afghanistan without reading about hunger, war, landmines, refugees, and so on. The Taliban did nothing to alleviate those problems. What they did do was add a sense of the absurd on a grand scale. When they ordered the Buddha statues destroyed and prohibited art and sports and all the things that people take enjoyment in, we were all in a state of disbelief. We shook our heads and wondered how it had come to this. Then September 11th happened and I dreaded what was sure to come next. With the impending bombing campaign I truly feared for the people. On the other hand one friend of mine, who had come back to the U.S. from Afghanistan after living there during the Taliban era, said there was a cancer there and you had to give it chemotherapy. It's not pleasant but maybe that's what it takes. I don't know if he was right or wrong but I do know there's relative peace in Afghanistan now and a cautious sense of optimism for the first time in a long long time. I think Afghanistan is currently enjoying a window of opportunity. My fear is that with the passing of time, and with public attention shifting to other issues -- the impending war with Iraq, the struggling economy -- Afghanistan might once again be forgotten by America. And when I say that I echo the sentiment of a lot of Afghans, especially those who still live there. If this book accomplishes anything, on a broader level, I hope it helps to keep Afghanistan alive in the collective mind of the public. If it accomplishes that I feel it will have been a very worthwhile thing to do.

How do people in Afghanistan feel about those who fled the country in the late 1970s or early '80s. What sort of reaction do you expect when you return?
I think there could be several different reactions depending on who we're talking about and who we're asking. When I asked Tamim the same question he said he felt people weren't bitter at all; that they were just happy to have people back to help with the reconstruction process. And certainly President Karzai has made it abundantly clear that he wants Afghan intellectuals and professionals to come back and help the country rebuild.

Simultaneously, I have heard reports of embitterment towards those Afghans who fled and who are now returning. And I can see how there could be some resentment. Now that investors' money is flowing it seems to them as if people are suddenly appearing out of the woodwork. In my heart I hope I get the former reaction although if it were the latter I would certainly understand.

What are your views on some of the women's issues in Afghanistan and the way women are treated there?
The way women were treated in Afghanistan during the Taliban era was unacceptable. But things were very different when I was growing up. Back then women were very active in contributing to society, at least in urban areas. My mother, for example, was a teacher at a girl's high school. The Taliban did Afghanistan a great, great disservice by shutting women out of the workplace. So the damage they inflicted is going to take years to repair: rebuilding the schools, getting girls to pick up books again, re-acclimating women into the workplace, and so forth. I think it's very tragic. In the novel I didn't touch much on the subject because I felt it was something that had been pretty well covered. Perhaps the most well known aspect of the Taliban regime was its mistreatment of women. It's still a work very much in progress for women, but my understanding is that in the post-Taliban era things are much better. Girls are going back to school and learning again. Women are returning to the workplace. They wear the Burqa if they want to but they don't have to. Once again they can move about without the presence of a male adult companion, wear makeup, listen to music and so on. So my understanding, based on what I've read and heard, is that the situation is much better, although there is still room for improvement, especially in more rural areas. Nevertheless, that's one of the things that intrigues me and that I want to see for myself.

What is the greatest misconception Americans have about Afghanistan?
I am not sure there are many now. In the wake of 9/11, the public was extensively exposed to and educated about Afghanistan. But if there was one, it was that we are all like the Taliban and that women never had a say in Afghan society. In fact purdah, the Muslim practice of keeping women hidden from men outside their own family -- either via a curtain, veil, or the like -- was first made optional in 1959. It was a time when women began to enroll in the University and to enter the workforce and the government. In the mid-1970s a new constitution was presented that confirmed women's rights. Most people don't know that.

They think Afghanistan was more like Saudi Arabia, a place where women had been repressed for centuries and where those same practices were continuing. I was in an Internet chat room once in which a woman logged in and started going off about how Afghans treat their women. I told her not all Afghans are that way and what she was seeing was the practices of the then-current regime -- the Taliban. That took her by surprise.

Many aid workers and diplomats have been unwilling to spend time in cities other than Kabul because of fears of terrorism, assault, banditry and rape. This has greatly slowed reconstruction projects in the countryside. What will it take to change the situation there?
It's difficult to say because Afghanistan has to develop a national army and that's going to take time. But there's a transitional period between now and then where security will remain a vital issue. Unfortunately it seems like you can't have reconstruction without security and you can't have security without reconstruction. The big debate right now is whether ISAF forces should be allowed to expand to cover larger regions of the country and bridge the security gap until a functional national army can be properly trained, groomed and equipped. As to be expected you can find plenty of opinions on both sides of the issue. There are conservative Afghans who feel that would be a step toward the country's becoming a pawn for western colonialism and there are others who feel it's a necessary step for reconstruction.

Tell me a bit about your parents' background.
My dad came from a small village just a few kilometers from Herat, which is a large town in western Afghanistan. He was an only child raised by his mother (his father died when he was two years old). My mom was brought up in Herat itself. We're talking about the 1940s and ‘50s here so there was very little infrastructure where they lived -- no electricity, no running water and so on. Eventually they moved to Kabul. If I were to relate that event to a similar experience here I'd have to say it would be like moving from a small town in rural Alabama to New York City. The streets of Kabul were paved. People drove cars. Everyone had electricity. It was a bold and drastic move for them. Eventually they both managed to attend university. My mom became a teacher and my dad a diplomat.

You've already told the story of your dad's posting to Tehran. Take us now to the mid-1970s. You're ten or eleven years old and your family is living in Kabul once again. What happened next?
My father received another overseas posting -- this time as a second secretary at the embassy in Paris. We moved there in October of 1976 for what we thought was going to be a four-year stint. Two years later, while we were still in France, the Communists staged a bloody coup at home and Daoud Khan, Afghanistan's President, was killed. At that point everybody was very scared. People were still traveling back and forth to Afghanistan, and given my father's position in the embassy we had a line of communication available to us, so we were able to hear reports of what was going on. We were hearing stories of executions and imprisonments. We learned of friends and distant relatives who were shot and killed. We learned about one of my distant cousins who tried to escape into Pakistan hidden in a fuel truck and who suffocated while en route. (That also became the basis for a scene in the book.) So we knew there was trouble. Then, in December of 1979, the Soviets invaded. That sealed our fate because at that point my father decided he wasn't going back. The question was whether to stay in France, where my parents at least felt fairly comfortable and where they'd learned the language and made friends, or move to America.

What is your strongest memory of that time in Paris after the Communists took over?
I remember it felt a little like I was living in a spy novel. Whenever we'd travel anywhere my father would insist we all wait by the elevator in the garage while he went clear across the parking lot to get the car and bring it to us. People were getting killed and he was afraid that someone may have planted a bomb in the car. And you had to be careful about what you said, and to whom, because the new regime sent its own diplomats to Paris. There was one man in particular who brought his family with him including a pair of boys my age. I remember meeting them for the first time and noticing they were wearing their Khalq party buttons on their Levis jackets. (The Khalq party was one of Afghanistan's socialist factions.) They began referring to me as ‘comrade'. It was pretty shocking and it gave me an idea of the sort of brainwashing that was going on in Kabul during that era. It was a time of great uncertainty and fear for us. We wondered if we'd ever see Afghanistan again.

Was the move to the US something you're family talked about? Or did your father just gather the family together one day and say, ‘We're moving to America!'?
I don't remember any family meetings, but I knew my father was mulling over moving us to the States. I think he never mentioned it for security reasons. Kids talk. In any event we moved to San Jose, California, in September of 1980. I was delighted. My parents still live there by the way. In fact almost my entire family still lives there with the exception of two of my four siblings, who live in San Diego.

How difficult was the transition to the US?
That first couple of years in America was a difficult time for all of us. For my siblings and me, in addition to the anxiety of learning a new language, there were the usual fears of adolescence and pre- adolescence: Will I fit in? Will I make friends? Am I ever going to learn English? And will other kids make fun of me? Starting essentially from scratch was much harder on my parents. They'd had established lives and careers and identities.

They'd had homes and land that they'd given up. And now they had to assimilate into a brand new culture at a stage in their lives when assimilation was not particularly easy. I think the hardest adjustment for my parents, especially my dad, was the notion of being on welfare.

I clearly remember our first Christmas here in the States. We were home entertaining some Afghan friends -- it was the middle of the afternoon -- when we heard a knock on the door. When we opened the door a procession of Boy Scouts walked into the house with boxes of canned food, old clothes, a Christmas tree and used toys. We were appreciative but for my parents it was a mortifying experience. They'd always been proud, self-sufficient people. For them to lose everything they'd owned and suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of charity was a tough pill to swallow. Soon after that my dad got a job as a driving instructor. He then drove down to the welfare office and said, ‘No more!' He volunteered us off of welfare.

What do you remember most about the US when you first arrived?
My clearest impression was one of amazement at the size of everything: the wideness of the streets, the size of the homes, the manicured lawns, the sheer number of cars and people and freeways. It was a little overwhelming and very exciting too. I remember feeling this very dizzying sense of hope that anything could and would happen in this place if you wanted it bad enough. It was an amazingly powerful feeling that few people experience who aren't immigrants. Because of that sense of hope and mystery I'll always look back fondly on those early years here.

Are your parents still alive? And, if so, what are they doing now?
My mother is not working; my father is an eligibility officer -- he dispenses welfare. And most of his clients are Afghans.

That's pretty ironic considering his position on welfare when he first came to this country.
It's one of those things that would make a great piece of fiction. When we first came to the States he worked as a driving instructor but it was a very stressful job. When he developed diabetes and heart disease he started looking for alternatives and eventually found his current position. He feels it's an honorable job and he feels he's truly helping people in need. As I said, most of his clients are Afghans. His experiences, and the difficulties he had in accepting welfare, have allowed him to identify with his clients and given him a sense of empathy that others might not have.

What are your parents' feelings now on the current state of affairs in Afghanistan? Do they have any desire to go back?
They miss Afghanistan and Kabul but they're very concerned about the security issue. There are also health issues for my father. He's got diabetes and coronary heart disease, pulmonary problems, and he's already had one bout with cancer. Nevertheless he, too, has expressed some interest in going back, at least for a visit. Currently I think my parents are hopeful about the situation there but, like everyone else, they're concerned about the various warlords and tribal chiefs who are all vying for their own interests.

Everybody's afraid that that may lead to the undoing of this incredible opportunity for the country. And depending on whom you ask, and what their particular backgrounds are, Mr. Karzai is either doing a wonderful job or failing miserably. Personally I think he's doing an admirable job. I think he must have one of the roughest tasks of any world leader.

How did the story itself come together?
It came together for me when the character of Hassan began to emerge. He came to life as a result of two separate incidents in my own life, one of which was pleasant and the other decidedly unpleasant. The first occurred in the early 1970s when my father, who worked for the Afghan foreign ministry, was posted to the embassy in Tehran. I was about six at the time. Dad had hired a cook in Kabul, a man named Hussein Khan, and brought him with us. Khan was an ethnic Hazara -- a minority that had, at best, been neglected by Afghanistan's Pashtun government, and, at worst, persecuted, for more than 200 years. Khan was about thirty years old -- a short, stocky man with black hair. He was very soft-spoken, very gentle. He and I became fairly friendly. I don't know if he had a family, or whether he'd been married, but I do remember he never wrote any letters to, or received any letters from, home. I asked him why that was. He said it was because he couldn't read or write. When I asked why not he said it was because no one had ever taught him. Naturally I said, I'll teach you. I guess I was in the third grade at the time. Within a year he could read and write, albeit with a childlike handwriting. (I used that incident in the novel for the character Soraya.) I was pretty proud of him and myself. He called me ‘Professor Khaled'. I don't remember the exact circumstances of how it happened but Kahn ended up moving away. I don't know what became of him. It wasn't until much later that I fully appreciated that my time with Hussein Khan had been my first personal exposure to the unfairness and injustices that permeate society. Here was a man who grew up illiterate, and who was denied the opportunities I was offered as a third grader, simply because of his race.

Some of the images you write about, particularly when Amir goes back Afghanistan, are incredibly painful: the trek to Kabul, the stoning at Ghazi stadium and the stories of casual Taliban cruelty. If you haven't been back in more than twenty years where did those images come from? What allowed you to create such vivid scenes and draw such vivid pictures?
Those scenes were a combination of things I've read and news footage I've seen. For example, there was that famous footage shot by a woman, which showed a Taliban soldier publicly executing another woman at a soccer stadium. He put a shotgun to the back of her head and pulled the trigger. There was also footage of the Taliban bringing a convicted murderer onto the soccer field. I believe it was the brother of the victim who was then handed a knife and asked to slit the murderer's throat, which he then proceeded to do.

Much of the rest is based purely on my imagination: what it must feel like to be in a situation like that, what a Mullah might say, what the crowd's reaction might be, and so on. I also drew heavily on the eyewitness accounts of people who had visited Afghanistan under the Taliban. I used to sit around and hear them tell incredible horror stories of conditions at home. Once I started writing that part of the novel I went back and contacted some of those people to learn more details.

What do you want readers to get out of this book?
I want them to see that the Afghan people existed before there was a war with the Soviets and before there was a Taliban. I want them to understand that the things we're seeing now in Afghanistan -- the tribal chiefs vying for their own interests and the various ethnicities colliding with each other -- have roots that go back several centuries. I try to illuminate some of those things through the experiences of Amir and his Hazara servant, Hassan. I want readers to have a really good time reading this story. I want them to be touched by it because to me novel writing, first and foremost, is storytelling. And I was brought up on a tradition of storytelling. I want people to get involved with the characters and care for them. And I want people to simply remember Afghanistan. If the book is successful at all in sparking some dialogue on Afghanistan, and keeping it in the public consciousness, then I think it will have achieved a lot.
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Reading Group Guide

An Introduction from the Publisher
Khaled Hosseini's stunning debut novel The Kite Runner follows a young boy, Amir, as he faces the challenges that confront him on the path to manhood-testing friendships, finding love, cheating death, accepting faults, and gaining understanding. Living in Afghanistan in the 1960s, Amir enjoys a life of privilege that is shaped by his brotherly friendship with Hassan, his servant's son. Amir lives in constant want of his father's attention, feeling that his is a failure in the imposing man's eyes; Hassan, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Amir and Hassan's deep but inherently fatal friendship is a complex tapestry of both love and loss.

Striving to be the son his father always wanted, Amir takes on the weight of living up to unrealistic expectations and places the fate of his relationship with his father on the outcome of a kite running tournament, a popular challenge in which participants must cut down the kites of others with their own kite. Amir wins the tournament. Yet just as he begins to feel that all will be right in the world, a tragedy occurs with his friend Hassan in a back alley on the very streets where the boys once played. This moment marks a turning point in Amir's life-one whose memory he seeks to bury by moving to America. There he realizes his dream of becoming a writer and marries for love but the memory of that fateful day will prove too strong to forget. Eventually it draws Amir back to Afghanistan to right the wrongs that began that day in the alley and continued in the days, months, and years that followed.

Discussion Questions
1. The novel begins with Amir's memory of peering down an alley, looking for Hassan who is kite running for him. As Amir peers into the alley, he witnesses a tragedy. The novel ends with Amir kite running for Hassan's son, Sohrab, as he begins a new life with Amir in America. Why do you think the author chooses to frame the novel with these scenes? Refer to the following passage: "Afghans like to say: Life goes on, unmindful of beginning, end...crisis or catharsis, moving forward like a slow, dusty caravan of kochis [nomads]." How is this significant to the framing of the novel?

2. The strong underlying force of this novel is the relationship between Amir and Hassan. Discuss their friendship. Why is Amir afraid to be Hassan's true friend? Why does Amir constantly test Hassan's loyalty? Why does he resent Hassan? After the kite running tournament, why does Amir no longer want to be Hassan's friend?

3. Early in Amir and Hassan's friendship, they often visit a pomegranate tree where they spend hours reading and playing. "One summer day, I used one of Ali's kitchen knives to carve our names on it: 'Amir and Hassan, the sultans of Kabul.' Those words made it formal: the tree was ours." In a letter to Amir later in the story, Hassan mentions that "the tree hasn't borne fruit in years." Discuss the significance of this tree.

4. We begin to understand early in the novel that Amir is constantly vying for Baba's attention and often feels like an outsider in his father's life, as seen in the following passage: "He'd close the door, leave me to wonder why it was always grown-ups time with him. I'd sit by the door, knees drawn to my chest. Sometimes I sat there for an hour, sometimes two, listening to their laughter, their chatter." Discuss Amir's relationship with Baba.

5. After Amir wins the kite running tournament, his relationship with Baba undergoes significant change. However, while they form a bond of friendship, Amir is still unhappy. What causes this unhappiness and how has Baba contributed to Amir's state of mind? Eventually, the relationship between the two returns to the way it was before the tournament, and Amir laments "we actually deceived ourselves into thinking that a toy made of tissue paper, glue, and bamboo could somehow close the chasm between us." Discuss the significance of this passage.

6. As Amir remembers an Afghan celebration in which a sheep must be sacrificed, he talks about seeing the sheep's eyes moments before its death. "I don't know why I watch this yearly ritual in our backyard; my nightmares persist long after the bloodstains on the grass have faded. But I always watch, I watch because of that look of acceptance in the animal's eyes. Absurdly, I imagine the animal understands. I imagine the animal sees that its imminent demise is for a higher purpose." Why do you think Amir recalls this memory when he witnesses Hassan's tragedy in the alleyway? Amir recollects the memory again toward the end of the novel when he sees Sohrab in the home of the Taliban. Discuss the image in the context of the novel.

7. America acts as a place for Amir to bury his memories and a place for Baba to mourn his. In America, there are "homes that made Baba's house in Wazir Akbar Khan look like a servant's hut." What is ironic about this statement? What is the function of irony in this novel?

8. What is the significance of the irony in the first story that Amir writes? After hearing Amir's story, Hassan asks, "Why did the man kill his wife? In fact, why did he ever have to feel sad to shed tears? Couldn't he have just smelled an onion?" How is his reaction to the story a metaphor for Amir's life? How does this story epitomize the difference in character between Hassan and Amir?

9. Why is Baba disappointed by Amir's decision to become a writer? During their argument about his career path, Amir thinks to himself: "I would stand my ground, I decided. I didn't want to sacrifice for Baba anymore. The last time I had done that, I had damned myself." What has Amir sacrificed for Baba? How has Amir "damned himself"?

10. Compare and contrast the relationships of Soraya and Amir and their fathers. How have their upbringings contributed to these relationships?

11. Discuss how the ever-changing politics of Afghanistan affect each of the characters in the novel.

12. On Amir's trip back to Afghanistan, he stays at the home of his driver, Farid. Upon leaving he remarks: "Earlier that morning, when I was certain no one was looking, I did something I had done twenty-six years earlier: I planted a fistful of crumpled money under the mattress." Why is this moment so important in Amir's journey?

13. Throughout the story, Baba worries because Amir never stands up for himself. When does this change?

14. Amir's confrontation with Assef in Wazir Akar Khan marks an important turning point in the novel. Why does the author have Amir, Assef, and Sohrab all come together in this way? What is this the significance of the scar that Amir develops as a result of the confrontation? Why is it important in Amir's journey toward forgiveness and acceptance?

15. While in the hospital in Peshawar, Amir has a dream in which he sees his father wrestling a bear: "They role over a patch of grass, man and beast...they fall to the ground with a loud thud and Baba is sitting on the bear's chest, his fingers digging in its snout. He looks up at me, and I see. He's me. I am wrestling the bear." Why is this dream so important at this point in the story? What does this dream finally help Amir realize?

16. Amir and Hassan have a favorite story. Does the story have the same meaning for both men? Why does Hassan name his son after one of the characters in the story?

17. Baba and Amir know that they are very different people. Often it disappoints both of them that Amir is not the son that Baba has hoped for. When Amir finds out that Baba has lied to him about Hassan, he realizes that "as it turned out, Baba and I were more alike than I'd never known." How does this make Amir feel about his father? How is this both a negative and positive realization?

18. When Amir and Baba move to the States their relationship changes, and Amir begins to view his father as a more complex man. Discuss the changes in their relationship. Do you see the changes in Baba as tragic or positive?

19. Discuss the difference between Baba and Ali and between Amir and Hassan. Are Baba's and Amir's betrayals and similarities in their relationships of their servants (if you consider Baba's act a betrayal) similar or different? Do you think that such betrayals are inevitable in the master/servant relationship, or do you feel that they are due to flaws in Baba's and Amir's characters, or are they the outcome of circumstances and characters?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 600 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 603 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2012


    This was an excellent and fast read. I wished I had read it sooner. This book kept me intrigued and interested. Most important it kept me out of the fridge and my TV stayed off. Who needs cable vision when we have Khaled Hosseini to entertain us. Thank you Dr. Hosseini.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it!!!!!!

    If you enjoyed A Thousand Splendid Suns, then you will love this one.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2013

    Very good book!

    The Kite Runner is such touching book that can rarely be found in literature

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 1, 2013

    When Afghanistan went to war and was saved by the Taliban who tu

    When Afghanistan went to war and was saved by the Taliban who turned out to be just as bad, Amir Agha and his father Baba moved to America. They had trouble when they moved and went through changes which eventually made them better people. When they lived in Afghanistan Amir grew up with a boy named Hassan and his father Ali, their Hazara servants. Amir and Hassan grew up as best friends or so Hassan, the kite runner, thought. Because they were fed from the same breast, an extreme consequence was hidden deep in ones thoughts after an event to horrible to watch was reaveled . But in that exact sentence is a hidden secret that would have changed their lives if it they would have known at a young age. Unfortunately the information came too late. The secrets that were kept were so very important that without them the end never would have been. There was this one boy named Assef; he and his friends tormented the neighborhood kids and eventually become an essential part of the story. Then without warning contributed to the twist ending that excites the readers with amazement and wonder. Without that wonder and without Assef becoming an important part of the plot, one of our themes never would have been relevant; Stand up for yourself and others. This is a very good life story along with if you can’t stand up for yourself you’ll never stand up for others. Something was promised to be done and ends up being lived through by another very closely related. The book has a very exciting and intriguing climax and will blow your socks off. If you are only for a certain religion and don’t like reading about someone taking place in another religion or praying and practicing another religion then the book is not a top choice for you to read. Despite the religious content the book is astoundingly intriguing and contains life lessons that everyone should learn even the wisest of us all. Another theme is life can be cruel and forgiving if you don’t forget or give up. The biggest lesson to be learned from the exciting twist ending is no matter what has happened and what you’ve done you can still redeem yourself. Never give up is another moral that is pertaining to the book The Kite Runner.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013


    Love this book! Could not put it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    Fascinating novel of Afghanistan

    This book greatly helps understand the conflict in Afghanistan.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2014

    Really a well written, beautiful story. It really gave me a lot

    Really a well written, beautiful story. It really gave me a lot of understanding about middle eastern culture. A 
    heart wrenching story of friendship, family, betrayal, and redemption. A must read. I'd say mature teenagers 
    older, as some of the content is pretty intense and disturbing. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    I had to read this book as part of my summer reading and I can h

    I had to read this book as part of my summer reading and I can honestly say that it is one of the best books I have read so far. I thought I was not going to like it because the description says that it deals with the country's political standings at the time and redemption and such (which may sound boring), but it was actually great. The first few chapters are not that interesting since they are describing the background and such, but as you go more in depth in the book, you grow to love it. I loved it so much that I read it again and even did my Individual Oral Presentation on this novel. After you finish reading it, you can watch the movie (dont watch the movie before you finish reading the book, because the movie is not as amazing as the book and it leaves many vital parts out).
    Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to everyone because of the successful job that Hosseini does when he mixes historical information, issues between father and son, and a friendship that leads to betrayal and later the search for redemption.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2014

    When I started reading this book for an assignment in college, i

    When I started reading this book for an assignment in college, it took me at least three times to actually pick it up and read it. When I was finally forced by a deadline to pick it up and read it in its entirety , it was a very slow read. I did enjoy the Afghani history that was weaved into the story, but Amir was so unlikable, and its really hard to get into a book when you almost hate the main character. I can appreciate the novel for the points it was trying to get across, but if I had the choice , I wouldn't of read it. I could of just researched Afghanistan's history and left Amir out of it. The only reason I am giving it two stars is because I enjoyed the vision of how the writer described Afghanistan before it became what it is today, that was the only part of the book that peaked my interest.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013


    Wish I could say I couldn't put it down but I had to So moving and gut-wrenching that emotionally I couldn't go on at times

    A must read for anyone who is concerned with the world around us

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    Nooo to the kids

    This book is so graphic with kods being abused and raped. No kid should read this until you are atleast 15 or 16.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2013


    Dont waste money buying the book, just read all the plot spoilers on here that give away the entire book! They save you tons of money!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2013


    Perhaps one of the best books out there

    Sad ,heart warming, and enjoyable

    Excellent story line and characters

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    If you had a chance to be good again would you take it? The kite

    If you had a chance to be good again would you take it? The kite runner is a short novel if you get to finish it, when you get an idea of what happed in a scenario it might be easier to put in to words that explain every moment and detail in space, that way you know what is going on in a scenario. I had never read a book with such curvature in the scenes that you imagine while reading.  For a book difficulty of reading I would say the grammar is varied. If you’re the type of person that gets in to reading and would like to get a sample of a hazzara boy that had a unreliable friend and Pashtuns treating him like a joke because of his home town he grew up in. his brother was the unreliable friend that destroyed a huge secret brotherhood, yes they were brothers that came from the same baba (father) but one brother dies not knowing and while the other still living in his midlife crisis finding out the truth of what is real and isn’t. well back to the one of many lesson learned in this book is that you always get a second chance to be good again, and that’s what the living brother is trying to peruse because his guilty conscious is trying to fix what has happened that made everything go wrong, tough luck is heavy when it rests on your shoulder, time grows bigger but weaker, a never ending cycle. He continuously asks for attention when clearly the attention should be his own given. if you live saying I am weak you will be weak. Try not to think about what is but what it isn’t. Fight for what is right, even if you’re afraid in the pits of the end it’s not what you have that counts it’s what you did to help. If you have read all this the text I have typed then you won’t have trouble putting yourself in The Kite Runner and you will learn the major knowledge that may assist in your life to come.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2013

    The ¿Kite Runner¿ is a great story that talks about the author

    The “Kite Runner” is a great story that talks about the author Khalid Hosseini the Sunni Muslim that was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1963, and then moved to the U.S to San Francisco, CA in 1980. His father “Baba” calls him “Amir”, and his mom died when she gave birth to him. Rahim Khan Baba’s friend tells Amir in the beginning of the story “there is a way to be good again” and this quote is the main idea of the story.
    The story is mainly about two friends, Amir the Sunnis Muslim and Hassan the Shi’a Muslim, but because they are from different religious, that culture will prohibit them from being friends, but they always were together. Assef the boy who is stick to his culture didn’t like that, so he wanted to hurt both of them, and when he had the chance with Hassan he took it, he rapped him so that Hassan will understand that he is a man who stands for his culture and Amir saw everything but didn’t do anything, so he betrayed his friend because of his weakness. After a long time period, Amir had to go back to his country to find out that Assef has his own half brother’s son Sohrab and that he had to fight Assef so he can get Sohrab back, but Amir like always is weak and get beaten up almost to death until Sohrab saved him. This showed Amir the what happened around him was mostley because of him and that’s why Rahim Khan told Amir that “there is a way to be good again” so that he recognizes what he did when he was young and the difference between the feelings of Hassan towards Amir when he saved him and Amir towards Hassan when he betrayed him. That’s why what goes around comes around.
    I liked this novel, because it shows us that no matter how far a person goes or how much money a person can make, it’s always going to be the time when life shows that person that what he/she did was wrong so that every time this person remembers what happen to him, will remember what he/she did. But even if life showed Amir that what he did was wrong and he had to pay because of how he treated his own childhood friend that turned to be his half brother, Amir will not change and will stay the same person that he was when he was a child, because a person who won’t stand for himself will not stand for anything else.
    I honestly recommend this novel to everyone, even if I didn’t like the main character Amir which is the author, but it’s still a great story that talks about our daily life with others and the responsibilities that we have to take towards the people we love.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2013


    I hated this book it was boring, plotless and never drew me in

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2013

    Emotionally ripping and gripping at you the entire book, the Kit

    Emotionally ripping and gripping at you the entire book, the Kite Runner finds a way to transcend anything that could ever be expected and as a perfect cliche, haunts your for days...months...years....a true must read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Compelling story, hooks you from the first paragraph

    Peering into a time and culture few Westerners get to see, let alone understand. Mr. Hosseini puts us in his mind and vision and takes on a compelling, emotional and insiteful journey as his characters grow and change. Wonderful read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    One of the saddest books I have read in quite a while. The autho

    One of the saddest books I have read in quite a while. The author does not pull any punches, or leave anything to the imagination. I liked that the author used italics for the afghani terms that some westerners may not be familiar with. This book was bought for me as a gift and I really enjoyed reading it

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Loved it

    Powerful story of an incredible friendship

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 603 Customer Reviews

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