In our series on Banned Books, we want to look at The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I remember reading this one when it first was published and it was a fantastic read that took me to a country and culture I’d known little about. And what little I did know was shattered by the events that unfolded. I do realize this is a work of fiction but some of the cultural traits that came through were fantastic and pieces of the story that were a large part of the book were universal. It made me realize that people in a far away country had so many similarities to the culture I knew, both for good and bad.
This is a great story of misfortune, mistakes, and redemption. It’s a shame though, that the reasons this book was challenged and banned in some areas were the very things that could have elicited empathy, if they’d perhaps given it some thought. While I believe some of the complaints were because of the religion of the characters, which is an odd thing to challenge a book about, the terrible rape of one boy by another is a large reason the book received complaints.
While I understand being uncomfortable by this scene in the book, there are so many reasons to keep this book available, rather than issue a ban or even challenge it, that they far outweigh this terrible event. The victim of the encounter, Hassan, is a sympathetic character to be sure and, again, it’s a rough scene to read but this event speaks to Amir’s character and it’s the beginning of the end for his relationship with Hassan. Also, this sets off a chain of events that haunts Amir well into adulthood and drives him to make amends, to repent in a way, of what he did.
Terrible things happen, and while it’s not healthy if a reader seeks these out for some sort of voyeuristic-like enjoyment, keeping young readers from this fact can be as equally unhealthy. Using tough novels or terrible passages in a book to teach or start a conversation, to help someone empathize, to show right and wrong, and to just perhaps help someone grow are plentiful in literature. The issues leading to this book being challenged should be overlooked, in my opinion, because this is a fantastic novel that builds a deep set of characters, allows you to follow them through struggles and trials, see them grow and mature, and overcome a heavy weight they chained to themselves in their youth. It’s been out for a while but I’d recommend reading or rereading The Kite Runner if you haven’t done so.