In 2005, The Kite Runner, Khalid Hosseini’s debut novel, became a barn-burning success. I remember reading it for my book club, as many did. I was at the beach with one of my book club friends who had already read the novel. As I turned each page, gasping at some new atrocity, my friend smiled sadly. “It’s horrible, isn’t it? And yet so beautiful.”
The Kite Runner was cited by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai as one of two books every student should read. It was made into an Golden Globe-nominated film. And The Kite Runner is so frequently taught in schools that one can easily find study guides on line. http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/08/teaching-the-kite-runner-with-the-new-york-times/?_r=0 And yet, The Kite Runner was, for the third time, included in the American Library Association’s list of books most frequently challenged. This week has been declared “Banned Books Week” by the American Library Association.
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of
September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community –- librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types –- in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
The Kite Runner tells the story of two young men who were born in the “golden age” of Afghanistan but come to adulthood during its turmoil. Hosseini has said that in Hassan, one of the boys, the reader discovers in fact the history of Afghanistan in the modern age. Even if it’s a parable, that doesn’t make it any easier to read.
Like many writers, Hosseini says he would like to have The Kite Runner back to re-edit. “I’m glad I wrote them when I did because I think if I were to write my first novel now it would be a different book, and it may not be the book that everybody wants to read. But if I were given a red pen now and I went back … I’d take that thing apart.” http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jun/01/khaled-hosseini-kite-runner-interview
I think the book is a masterpiece just the way it is, even though turning the page often brings a fresh round of tears. If your book club hasn’t had the chance to read The Kite Runner yet, now — in the midst of Banned Books Week or in celebration of it — is a good time to do so.
Neither I nor my Kentucky grandmother have any experience with Afghan cuisine. So I did some research.
Qabili Palau, which consists of tender meat (usually lamb) domed under rice that’s mixed with lentils, raisins and julienned carrots. The bolani is a flatbread often stuffed with pumpkin, leeks or other vegetables. It’s comparable to the Indian paratha. The mantwo is a meat-stuffed dumplng topped with yogurt that takes its cues from Chinese and Central Asian cuisines. The aushak is more of a vegetarian ravioli. Kabobs also feature prominently.
Put rice into a large bowl and cover with water; let soak for 20 minutes. Drain rice and reserve. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb with salt and brown, turning occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate; set aside. Reduce heat to medium, add onions, and cook, stirring, until browned, 12-15 minutes. Return lamb to pot with 2 cups water; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, until meat is tender, about 1 hour. Using a slotted spoon, transfer lamb to a plate; set aside. Reserve cooking liquid in pot.
Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, season with salt, and cook, stirring, until tender, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer carrots to a plate; set aside. Add raisins; cook until plump, 2-3 minutes. Set raisins aside.