Have you read Khaled Hosseini’s books yet? Start with The Kite Runner and follow up with A Thousand Splendid Suns and you will have experienced the true art of storytelling along with gaining an education of the dynamics of Afghanistan and its people. These books have been out for a few years now, and The Kite Runner was made into a movie (2007). I don’t want to review the books here, because there are so many other reviews out there. What I do want to say is that you need to experience these books for yourself. Khaled Hosseini is a masterful storyteller, and develops both rich characters, storylines and plots. His are stories that leave you thinking and remembering for a long time. He has the keen ability to impart a deeper sense of understanding of Afghanistan and the Afghan people. Both were books I simply couldn’t put down until the end. I recommend the audiobook version of The Kite Runner as the author himself is the reader, which lends greater emotion and depth to the story, including accurate pronunciation of Afghan names and words. This was invaluable to me as I yearned to absorb the characters and their lives. Through reading books like these, we can collectively develop a sense of empathy and compassion for a country that has long been war-torn.

The author was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, the son of a diplomat whose family received political asylum in the United States in 1980 and continues to live in the US. The author is a US envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. For more on his projects, including the newly formed Khaled Hosseini Foundation, visit the authors blog. I just visited the Foundation site for the first time and was greeted with the following inspiring quote by George Eliot: What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? Ours is a world of many hues, experiences, lives, cultures, ethnicities, backgrounds and histories, but we all share humanity and the ability to feel compassion, love and care for one another…. And one way to be drawn closer to fellow humankind is through reading and learning about cultures that differ from our own and find the comparisons and similarities that make us all human.

To deepen the learning and understanding process, I also recommend reading The Storyteller’s Daughter, a memoir by Saira Shah, a journalist and documentary film maker. For a fascinating interview with Shah and about her film Beneath the Veil, visit the CNN site. The book is filled with quotes, Afghan stories and legends, Shah’s family history and personal reflections as well as capturing the experience of filming Beneath the Veil. Readers will gain a sense of life before the Taliban and during the Russian occupation up to 9/11 and after. Shah had the unique experience of being a female journalist and experience relative freedom upon her first trips to Afghanistan to fearing her life for being both a woman and a journalist. A review of the book states:

When she made her first trip in 1986, a harrowing journey from Peshawar through the Hindu Kush to the front lines in the war with the Soviet Union, she was “chasing a myth.” But by the time the Taliban took over in 1996, the disintegration of the myth was almost complete. Beneath the Veil shows the suffering, in particular, of three young sisters, and Shah’s trip to do a follow-up report after U.S. air strikes began was also a personal mission to rescue the girls–efforts defeated as much by domestic exigency and centuries-old habits of mind as by larger forces: “Afghanistan had confounded me, just as it has always confounded the West.” In this very personal inside-outside account, Shah is our eye on a culture and set of conditions that are much more complex than what we see on the nightly news. By Mary Ellen Quinn from Booklist.

With the current news and elevating situation in Afghanistan, it is imperative to learn more about the Afghan people and their country.