A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini tells the story of Amir, who grows up in Afghanistan during the 1970s and '80s, and eventually moves to the San Francisco Bay Area. Cultural prejudice and the political power shifts as the Russians invade and the Taliban later take over strongly affect Amir's relationships. The novel includes graphic descriptions of extreme cruelty and violence, including homosexual rape, murder, beatings, and a suicide attempt. Alcohol and drugs are used in appropriate ways, though the righteousness of drinking's part of religious discussions about Islam. This beautiful, moving novel deals with complex adult issues about religion, prejudice, forgiveness, and the nature of "goodness."
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What's the story?
In Khaled Hosseini's debut novel THE KITE RUNNER, Amir comes of age in 1970s Afghanistan. The son of a wealthy businessman, he grows up alongside Hassan, the son of his father's servant. Whereas Amir receives every advantage -- a fine house, extravagant gifts on his birthday, and a good education -- servile Hassan's illiterate and lives in a hut on the property of Amir's father, Baba. Amir's family members are Pashtuns, considered in their culture superior to Hazaras like Hassan and his father, Ali. Baba gives Hassan a lot of attention, which makes Amir competitive for his father's affection; when other Pashtun boys are around, Amir sets himself above Hassan, teasing him and shunning him. However, when it's just the two of them, they play together often, frequently running kites -- a sport where kite fighters try to cut each other's string, and boys run to catch the loose kites. When Amir wins a kite fight, Hassan runs to catch the last kite that Amir beat. After Hassan finds the second-place kite, some cruel boys find Hassan, and Amir witnesses something that affects his self-worth and his life path from that moment on.
Is it any good?
This riveting book will certainly encourage teens to look at their world and "goodness" in new ways. Khaled Hosseini's debut created controversy among Afghan readers; the novel portrays Pashtuns as prejudiced toward Hazara people and treating them with degradation. The racial and religious extremism in the novel's certainly upsetting; the violence is horrifying. But the characters in The Kite Runner are beautifully realized, and their story's unforgettable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Familes can talk about how Afghan people are portrayed in The Kite Runner. Is it different from the way you see them in the media? Did your perception of them change from reading the book?
What role does religion play in Amir's life? How does this compare with your life and your friends'?
Does this story make you want to learn more about Afghanistan's recent history? Khaled Hosseini's other novels, A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed, are a great place to start.
- Author: Khaled Hosseini
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Penguin Group
- Publication date: May 29, 2003
- Number of pages: 402
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 3, 2017
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