After the events of September 11, 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban. The end of The Kite Runner occurs in 2002, when a provisional government was in place. It was not until 2004 that the current president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, was elected. Today, there are countless Afghan refugees living in other parts of the world, just like Amir and his family. For those Afghans living in Afghanistan, life is still dangerous. In the South, conflict continues to rage on and the Taliban have managed to reemerge. According to Amnesty International's 2007 report, violence and human rights abuses are still a common reality in Afghanistan due to weak governance.
Are there countries out there in the world you want to know everything about but simply can't visit? For such a dilemma, the curious armchair traveler might browse the guidebooks at her local bookshop. Another option is to fire up Google Maps and study the landscape. Plus, if the media's all-roving eye currently favors your country of interest, you could also turn on a 24-hour news network or scan online newspapers. But how well can you really come to know a place if you're relying on guidebooks, landscapes, and news stories? Doesn't it take something more to really know a place? We think you have to get inside the environment, walk around in it – you've really got to breathe the air. So, what are you to do short of traveling to this country?
Granted, you could go out and buy a hefty non-fiction book on the country. And, after sitting down in your comfiest chair, sipping some tea, and warming yourself by the fire...you might doze off. Or you could pick up this barn-burner of prose called The Kite Runner . Part of the ingeniousness of the book is that it takes a complex political history and maps it onto an individual story of friendship, betrayal, and jealousy. Who ever said you needed a GPS and a press pass to get the real scoop?
You'll also learn quite a bit about immigrant communities and what it means to be displaced from your homeland. Much of the novel describes the growing Afghan-American community in the United States. But it's not just this community you encounter as a reader – through Khaled Hosseini's depiction of displaced Afghans, you encounter the emotional strife and (possible) triumph of any exiled community. Heck, you might even come to see exile as something everyone feels at some point, whether or not you've left your watan (homeland). That sounds like some serious learning.
Which brings us to our final point: this very personal story of an Afghan friendship isn't just a way to talk about contemporary Afghanistan. It's actually an artful, rich story on its own without all the parallels to the nation as a whole. You might actually enjoy (and be enriched by) Hosseini's novel. What is there to lose?