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The Kite Runner | Study Guide

Khaled Hosseini

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The Kite Runner | 10 Things You Didn't Know


Published in 2003, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner is set in Afghanistan from the early 1970s to about 2002—before and after the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban. Its publication soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, brought a new understanding of Afghan culture and family life to Americans, many of whose knowledge of the country was limited to what they read in the news or saw on television.

Author Hosseini says that the reason for the book's popularity is because its themes of friendship, betrayal, and redemption "connects with them in a personal way, no matter what their own upbringing and background."

1. The book was a New York Times best seller for more than two years.

The Kite Runner spent more than two years on the prestigious New York Times best-seller list. It first appeared on the list in September 2004 and reached number one in March 2005. Readers spread their love for the book through book clubs and word of mouth.

2. The September 11 terrorist attacks likely contributed to the novel's success.

In an interview with Salon magazine, Hosseini stated that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, greatly increased interest in Afghanistan, a country that had been little-known to many Americans. He wanted to show a completely different side of the country, with its customs, traditions, and home life, than had come out in the news at that time.

3. A news story about banned kite flying inspired the plot of The Kite Runner.

In 1999 Khalid Hosseini was living in the United States and heard a story on the news describing how the Taliban in Afghanistan had banned kite flying. As a child, flying kites was something he loved to do with his friends, and he immediately wrote a short story about it, which he expanded into The Kite Runner.

4. A short story version was rejected by several publications.

The short story was rejected by The New Yorker, Esquire, and Atlantic Monthly. In an interview with the Academy of Achievement, Hosseini said, "Esquire had actually read it, and I got a ... nice handwritten response."

5. The Kite Runner was the first novel published in English by an Afghan writer.

When Khalid Hosseni moved to the United States, he was 15 and barely spoke any English. He always wanted to be a writer but first became a doctor, which was a career his parents encouraged. It wasn't until he was 36 that he published The Kite Runner—the first novel published in English by an Afghan author.

6. The author views The Kite Runner as a kind of love story.

While The Kite Runner details the recent history of Afghanistan, the lives of people living in different classes, and the traditions and home lives of its characters, the author feels that one of its major themes is love. He states, "Characters seek and are saved by love and human connection. In The Kite Runner, it was mainly the love between men," seen in the characters of Amir and Hassan.

7. Hosseini did not return to Afghanistan until the year the book was published.

Hosseini had been away from Afghanistan for 27 years, and it wasn't until 2003, after the publication of The Kite Runner, that he returned. He was shocked to see the effects of nearly 30 years of warfare on his country. The streets were filled with people who had been physically or emotionally wounded; weapons were everywhere; math questions in textbooks focused on numbers of grenades and soldiers. "War has infiltrated every facet of life," he said.

8. The Kite Runner has often been in the top 10 banned books in the United States.

On the American Library Association's top 10 list of banned books of 2015, The Kite Runner was listed as number 7. It has been challenged in classrooms throughout the country because of vulgar language and scenes of violence.

9. Several child stars in the film version of the novel had to go into exile.

The film adaptation, directed by Marc Forster, was released in 2007. Four young actors in the film adaptation of The Kite Runner had to be taken to a secret location in the United Arab Emirates for their safety. A scene in the film that details one boy's rape of another boy from a different Afghan tribe resulted in threats of violence against the boys. The film had to be delayed until they were safely hidden.

10. The 2007 film adaptation was filmed in China, not Afghanistan.

The film crew tasked with choosing locations for the movie didn't really consider Afghanistan, as the United States was at war there at the time. They focused on 20 different countries, trying to decide which looked the most like Afghanistan. Finally, the city of Kashgar, China, was the choice: "The streets of this city are just dripping with production value. All you have to do is change the signs," said one of the filmmakers.

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