Iowa Alumni Magazine | February 2005 | Reviews

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

By Michael Hogan
UI Provost Michael Hogan, 67MA, 74PhD, talks about the book he’s currently reading
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books).

Why did you choose this book?

The University of Iowa Center for Human Rights chose The Kite Runner for its fourth annual One Community, One Book—Johnson County Reads program, and I was asked to host a panel discussion about it. I’m a historian and a student of foreign relations— my field is international history, or the history of diplomacy—so I was intrigued by the international flavor of the book.

What’s it about?

It’s the story of a boy growing up in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the 1960s, who lives through civil war, the Soviet invasion of the country, and eventually the rule of the Taliban. But the primary focus is the main character’s relationship with his father and with his best friend, who is the son of his father’s servant. The book has a lot to teach an American reader about a society and culture most of us know very little about, even though it’s become so much more obviously relevant to us in recent years. But mostly, it’s about the complicated nature of human relationships.

What do you like most about it?

Because of my personal interests, I’m fascinated by the window this novel offers into pre- and post-invasion Afghanistan, the Afghan expatriate community in America, and the devastation of Afghanistan under Taliban rule. I think what I appreciate most, though, is that—as a good novel should—The Kite Runner opens that window through a gripping human narrative. The most absorbing aspect of the story is the dynamic between father and son. Relatively few novels seem to deal in depth with that frequently complex relationship, and I can’t recall the last one I read that did so with such emotional honesty.

What would you say to recommend it to others?

It’s hard to beat a book that can teach you so much, that can spark discussion about sweeping political issues and about intensely personal human ones at the same time, and does it all in the course of an unforgettable, fast-paced narrative. As the sponsors of the community reading program obviously recognized, this is a great book to read in a group, or to pass on to a friend so you have someone to talk to about it—because the story will stay with you for a long time to come.