Banned Book Highlight: “The Kite Runner”

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The cover of "The Kite Runner." Image courtesy of penguinrandomhouse.com

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, set in Afghanistan during the dying years of the monarchy, tells the unforgettable, heartbreaking story about the unlikely friendship between Amir, a wealthy, young Afghan boy, and the son of his father’s servant, Hassan.

The uncommon bond that the boys have shared since birth is broken with Amir’s choice to desert his friend in his hour of need, effectively abandoning him to the political, ethnic and religious unrest of the time.

Amir spends the next thirty or so years of his life seeking redemption for the wrongs committed against the only true friend he ever had.

I was surprised when browsing the American Library Association’s list of banned books to find that “The Kite Runner” has been threatened in libraries and schools across the country since 2008, when the novel appeared in the top 10 of the association’s list of frequently challenged books.

The main concerns about the novel include its sexually explicit content, offensive language and age inappropriateness. In 2012, it rose to sixth place on the ALA’s list, and in 2014 it placed seventh.

Other objections to “The Kite Runner” include its treatment of homosexuality, religious viewpoint and violence. According to the ALA, the novel was the fourth most challenged book in 2017 because it “was thought to ‘lead to terrorism’ and ‘promote Islam.’”

But the novel has not only been challenged for language and adult themes.

Reynolds High School in North Carolina suspended the use of “The Kite Runner” in its honors English class when a parent and former school board member expressed her concern that “The Kite Runner” was replacing classic literature, such as “All’s Quiet on the Western Front.”

An Arizona school district removed the book from the English curriculum without prior notice and without explanation after having taught the novel in the school for five years. Despite the district’s assurance that the case was not one of censorship, the removal does seem a little suspicious.

Hosseini addressed the issue at the 2013 annual ALA Conference. He admits that the novel has elements of a serious nature that parents and teachers need to discuss with their kids before handing them the book.

“I think to flat-out ban it is doing the kids a disservice because the book, I think, has served as a window to Afghanistan, as a window to that region of the world for the kids, and allowed them to feel connected to a part of the world that is so distant from their own lives,” Hosseini said.

I couldn’t agree with him more. In “The Kite Runner,” which I devoured recently in the space of one sitting, I discovered a mesmerizing story about the price of betrayal and the possibility of redemption.

I found a young boy, whose emotions I could identify with: his struggle with jealousy, loyalty and bullies, and his desire to win the approval of a distant father — not to mention his love of stories and tasty food. It is a story that taught me to appreciate more deeply my family, my friendships, my culture and my country.

Through Amir, I witnessed the devastating effects of standing by and doing nothing.

Amir’s father warns him: A boy who won’t stand up for himself becomes a man who can’t stand up to anything.” Let’s not be the ones who stand by mutely while stories that deserve to be heard are silenced.

Jacinta Mioni is a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com

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