The Kite Runner Deserves More Than A Mere Review
This letter was flitting around in my head ever since I threw down the book in frustration (you’ll know when). So here goes:
I don’t like you.
In fact, for quite a while, I hated you. I hated you, the mean kid who didn’t deserve that pure soul’s friendship; you, the privileged rich boy who escaped to the US and didn’t give a second thought to your supposed friend; you, who was too much of a coward to even apologise for what happened.
When THE INCIDENT happened, I wanted to scream and rage at the unfairness of the world; at the sheer cruelty of the hand that Hassan had been dealt, and for what? Protecting your undeserving self? I wanted to throw the book at the wall and tear it to shreds. I couldn’t do it to you, after all.
I did throw the book away, metaphorically. I didn’t pick it up for weeks after I read about the winter of 1975, the day you spoke of with such foreboding in every page leading up to the fateful event.
But I wanted to know, too. I knew, in my heart, that you would have a better life than Hassan, because that’s how the world seems to work, isn’t it? The unprivileged rarely get a chance to live better lives, no matter how much they deserve to. Especially in a war-torn country.
When your life seemed fine and dandy, settled as you were in benevolent America, I hated you all the more. Who decided that you could live on with no consequences when your friend was still probably languishing back in the country you had left behind?
When you got engaged and your fiancé told you her secrets, I wished you would redeem yourself by telling her yours. But you didn’t, and my hate festered.
When you went to Peshawar and Rahim Khan asked you for that favour, I hoped you would agree. When he had to resort to emotional blackmail to get you to go, well, my hope faded away. How could you be such a callous fellow? I failed to understand. And I still hated you.
But then, after what happened in Kabul, my hate faded. I realised that no matter how much I hated you, no matter how much anyone hated you, you hated yourself much, much more. You were a child when the incident happened; privileged and cowardly, but a hurt, confused child nonetheless.
You held the burden of your guilt for all those years and I realised that you didn’t live a better life than Hassan. You were in hell. Your own personal hell, that you had created yourself.
I forgave you, then.
But don’t think, not even for a moment, that I believe you ever deserved Hassan; brave Hassan who would move mountains for you; who would endure torture just so you could impress your Baba; pure Hassan who still loved you, even after you abandoned him for a better life.
You never deserved him, Amir, but the fact that you knew makes you redeemable in my eyes.
I still don’t like you, though.
Yours in disapproval,
About the Book
The Kite Runner is the story of Amir, a boy who belongs to an affluent Afghan family, and his best friend, Hassan, who also happens to be Amir's servant.
They are happy (sort of) until the winter of 1975, the day of Kabul's annual kite-fighting tournament. Amir is desperate to win and Hassan, his runner, wants to help him.
Only, there are obstacles and in helping Amir win, Hassan's life changes forever, and so does Amir's.
Filled with guilt about what happened, Amir does stuff he regrets, and then he and his Baba move off to the US, leaving Hassan and his old life behind.
Years later, Amir gets a chance to redeem himself. Can he face his demons back in his now war-torn home and survive? And more importantly, will he get his redemption?
My letter was...angry. Moody. Unhappy. And for good reason.
But I hope you know that none of it means that I didn't like the book. I loved it. Hosseini has this way of painting vivid pictures with no frills and fancies and I love that.
But would I recommend this book to simply EVERYONE? Well, no.
It's a sad book. As beautiful as the vivid descriptions are, they are also raw. Visceral. And visceral descriptions of violence and war, well, they come with their triggers...
I don't recommend this book to anyone who gets triggered by violence and rape and discrimination.
I also don't recommend it to anyone who is not in the space to read a sad book. I need a mood to read it, and if you aren't in that space, well, I suggest you hold off until you are.
When I first read Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was stunned by the simplistic beauty of his prose. But I was also quite eager to absorb everything I could about Afghanistan from his descriptions.
Like most other people I know, I have, for most of my life, read books by White American and British authors only. So a voice from outside that category was new to me, and I wanted to learn everything I could.
From that book and The Kite Runner, the biggest thing I took away was the raw, vivid descriptions of the country.
I, who prides herself on understanding diverse cultures (being from a diverse culture myself), made the mistake of assuming that Hosseini, just one author from the country, could accurately portray everything there was to know about it.
Well, I was wrong. Obviously.
No one author can paint an accurate picture of an entire country.
I don't want to talk about something I know nothing about, but there are other reasons that Hosseini's narrative could be problematic if we take it at face value. Check out @zirrar's story highlight on Hosseini to get a better picture. What he says makes sense.
Again, nothing against him. He writes fiction and taking his accounts to be the absolute truth of a country is ignorant on our part as readers. We can be better. We MUST be better.
I implore you, dear reader, not to make the same mistake I did. Take his narrative with a pinch of salt, and seek out other narratives to get a better, more nuanced picture of the beautiful country.
About the Author:
Khaled Hosseini, an Afghan-American physician, activist and writer, was born in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1965. His father was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and history at a high school.
In 1976, the Hosseini family shifted to Paris, courtesy the foreign ministry, and they were prevented from returning to Kabul in 1980 by the Soviet invasion, leading them to seek asylum in the US. Khaled Hosseini graduated high school in 1984, after which he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Santa Clara University, followed by a medical degree at the University of California.
While still practising medicine, he began writing his debut, The Kite Runner, which was published in 2003. He later also wrote A Thousand Splendid Suns (my favourite) and And The Mountains Echoed, and all three of his books have been published in over seventy countries and translated into several languages.
He now lives in Northern California with his wife and two children.