The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini


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.”

kiterunnerThe 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. 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.”

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.

I found this recipe on the website of Saveur. Our book club hostess made Qabili Palau but substituted beef roast for lamb shoulder.
Qabili PalauQabili-pulao-is-the-national-dish-of-Aghanistan-image-wikipedia
12 cups basmati rice
4 tbsp. canola oil
2 lb. boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄2″ pieces
Kosher salt
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
12 cup raisins
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
12 tsp. ground black cardamom seeds (optional)
12 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. rose water (optional)

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.

Combine coriander, cinnamon, pepper, cumin, cardamom (if using), and cloves in a bowl. Add rice to reserved pot; stir in half the spices and 3 cups water; season with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, without stirring, until liquid is just absorbed, 8-10 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle remaining spices over rice. Scatter lamb, carrots, and raisins over rice. Cover; continue to cook until rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir rice, lamb, carrots, and raisins together and season with salt and pepper; transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with rose water (if using).

Again, my knowledge is not only limited, it is non-existant. According to Wikipedia:

The music of Afghanistan has existed for a long time, but since the late 1970s the country has been involved in constant wars and people were less concerned about music. As such, music in Afghanistan has been suppressed and recording for outsiders is minimal[clarification needed], despite a rich musical heritage.

Located on the crossroads between many trade routes, Afghanistan’s music tradition was influenced by Arabs, Persians, Indians, Mongolians, Chinese and many others passing through. Thus Afghan music features a mix of Persian melodies, Arab scales, Indian compositional principles as well as sounds from ethnic groups such as the Pashtuns or Tajiks and the instruments used range from Indian tablas to long-necked lutes.

During the 1990s, the post-Soviet and Taliban governments banned instrumental music and much public music-making.[1] In spite of arrests and destruction of musical instruments, musicians have continued to ply their trade into the present. The multi-ethnic city of Kabul has long been the regional cultural capital, but outsiders have tended to focus on the city of Herat, which is home to traditions more closely related to Iranian music than in the rest of the country.[2] Lyrics throughout most of Afghanistan are typically in Dari (Persian) and Pashto.

I would download the score to The Kite Runner movie. You could do worse than listen to an Oscar-nominated score.