After his family was granted political asylum, a fifteen-year-old Hosseini started high school in California. Adjusting to the culture of American dreams, he followed a traditional educational trajectory, which eventually led him to medical school.
Somewhere along the way, drawing from the well within him, he wrote a short story called “The Kite Runner,” which he put in a yellow envelope and stored in a box in his garage. It had been created for himself alone. But then his wife found the envelope. She liked the piece and encouraged revisions, so six months before 9/11 shook his adopted homeland to its core, Hosseini had begun crafting a novel set in two hemispheres.
Khaled Hosseini’s work is vivid and powerful, but he understands his book partially struck a chord with the American public because of timing. American sons and daughters were being deployed to Kabul as The Kite Runner was published. Not only was it a great novel, there was a hunger to understand something more about a country so few could point to on a map. Perhaps Afghanistan wasn’t just a harbor for hate. Maybe there was humanity to find in the fiction.
Hosseini continued to be a doctor for eighteen months after The Kite Runner was launched. He did not see himself yet as the writer he clearly was even though patients started asking him for his signature during their check-ups. Once he started seeing people reading his book on airplanes, he began to think that maybe a career in letters was possible. Flipping channels one night, he saw his book was the answer to a question on Jeopardy. He knew then it was time to resign from medicine.
Hosseini’s talent has always been his own, but the opportunity to share that talent was a gift from the United States. The stories that poured from him came from Afghanistan. Today the writer gives back to both nations as a goodwill envoy for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Additionally, the Khaled Hosseini Foundation provides humanitarian assistance to refugees in one of the most war torn and poverty stricken countries on the face of the planet. Through his involvement, he is well positioned to have an opinion about that country’s future and American involvement within it.
First, he has always expressed a deep hatred for the Taliban and its totalitarian tactics. He was happy when the Bush administration toppled this group from power. However, he has been openly critical of what he felt was misguided neglect of Afghanistan after the Iraq invasion. This criticism is fair.
When asked about what he thinks will happen after American troops leave in 2014, he reminded the audience of which I was a part that the West has never had the power to change the Afghan people, but the exceptionally young population of Afghanistan is slowly changing itself. The last twelve years have been very important in this process. The Americans opened the opportunity for freedom, and this should not be overlooked or taken for granted.
Even so, most are very frightened of the vacuum that will be left upon US withdrawal. Afghans know the central government is weak. Though support for foreign troops encamped on Afghan soil has eroded because of effective propaganda spread by the Taliban, collateral damage from drone strikes, and the natural eroding power of time, the Afghans themselves fear militia wars and chaos more than they fear anything else. Yet he is certain no one wants the Taliban back in power.
Hosseini did not address what he thought about the Obama administration including this group in negotiations, but he told the New York Times in May that “it’s really important that we don’t rush toward a resolution for the sake of having a resolution…”
I hope someone in the White House is at least considering what Hosseini is saying.