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The Kite Runner Book Chat

World Literature Final Speech Model

Ashlee Price

on 14 November 2013

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Transcript of The Kite Runner Book Chat

The story begins with two childhood friends growing up in Afghanistan in the 1970s.
Unfortunately, Afghanistan then was a hotbed for religious conflict and discrimination, and things are about to get much worse.
The two boys are best friends but belong to two different religious sects of Islam.

Majority power in Afghanistan

Interpret Quran more strictly and literally

Create and rule with laws according to their interpretation

See other belief systems as wrong and contradictory to their own

Their laws divide society and create a hierarchy which they rule

Minority power in Afghanistan

Interpret Quran more metaphorically

Because they are the minority, they are forced to abide by Pashtun laws which discriminate against them

Live a life of servitude toward Pashtun because of their second-class citizen status
In 1970s Afghanistan, the Pashtun treatment of the Hazara was similar to the United State's segregation and second-class treatment of African-Americans before the Civil Rights movement.
Although Amir and Hassan and their families try to ignore the religious differences,
society constantly reminds them of their differences, building a wall between them.
"But he's not my friend! I almost blurted. He's my servant! Had I really thought that? Of course I hadn't. I hadn't. I treated Hassan well, just like a friend, better even, more like a brother. But if so, then why, when Baba's friends came to visit with their kids, didn't I ever include Hassan in our games? Why did I play with Hassan only when no one else was around?" (Hosseini 41).
A combination of this societal difference, jealousy of Hassan's good nature, and the inadequacy he feels about himself, thirteen-year-old Amir makes a choice that betrays his friend and divides their lives forever.
Amir will quietly live with guilt and regret that haunt him well into adulthood.
When a neighborhood bully taunts Amir for hanging out with Hassan, a Hazara, Amir's friendship is tested and he wonders this:
Society's religious discrimination affects Amir's view and treatment of Hassan.
In 1979, the Soviet Union invades a vulnerable Afghanistan in an effort to spread Communism.
Politics Invade Amir's World Too...
Afghanistan's long-standing monarchy is overthrown when moves are made to make the country less religious-based. So begins decades of violent struggles between many diverse groups vying for power in Afghanistan.
The violence becomes too much and Amir's father decides it is time for he and his son to leave Afghanistan.
"What was I doing on this road in the middle of the night? I should have been in bed, under my blanket...Tomorrow morning, I'd wake up, peek out the window: No grim-faced Russian soldiers patrolling the sidewalks, no tanks rolling up and down the streets of my city, their turrets swiveling like accusing fingers, no rubble, no curfews, no Russian Army Personnel Carriers weaving through the bazaars" (Hosseini 113).
Amir and his father settle just outside of San Francisco, CA. There, Amir finishes school, falls in love, gets married, and becomes a published author. Yet he is still tormented by his guilt over Hassan, his kite-flying friend.
Even though Amir is able to build a successful life (on the outside), his father, Baba, struggles to fit in with American culture, one he formerly admired from a distance.
Assimilation Issues
The number of immigrants from Afghanistan grew rapidly in the in the 1980s and 90s because of the violence there.

Currently about 300,000 Afghan-Americans reside in the U.S., most live in shared communities outside of big cities.

1. Language Barrier
2. Religious Differences and Existing Stereotypes
3. Misunderstood Social Customs (Ex: Baba in shop)
Afghan-American culture is rich with the art of oral story-telling.
After the September 11th terrorist attacks, many Afghan-Americans became targets of hate crimes because of their ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Shops were destroyed.
Homes were vandalized.
Citizens were attacked.
The citizenship process and airport screening became very difficult.
Facts about Afghan-Americans
Transition to American life is complicated by many factors:
The Afghan-American culture remains strong and determined to prove that they are a peaceful people who fled the same terrorism that struck here on 9/11/01.
Casualties of War
"According to a report, 'The Soviet-Afghan war has killed at least a million Afghans, maimed and disabled many more, [it] created an army of orphans and widows, turned half the population into internally displaced persons and refugees, including six million outside the country.' One report indicates that one million people became disabled during the Soviet-Afghan war" (Qtd. in Khan).
Amir describes the daily terror he experiences:
One day, Amir receives a phone call inviting him to go back to Afghanistan to perform an act that might help him find peace and forgiveness over the betrayal of his best friend Hassan nearly 30 years ago.
When Amir returns to Afghanistan in 2001, he is lost in a country that looks like nothing like the one he left in 1981.
There's No Place Like Home?
Religion and Politics have collided in Afghanistan. Under constant political turmoil, one group has managed to create "order" with strict religious laws that violently persecute and discriminate.
A group once known as a the Mujahideen rises to power in Afghanistan by uniting citizens against the Soviet Union invasion. Groups of citizens gather, train, and arm themselves to prevent the spread of Communism. They aim to spread Islam and bring order to a society terrorized by Soviet soldiers.
In an effort to stop the spread of Communism during the Cold War, the United States aids the Mujahideen, including a man named Osama bin Laden, with gifts of money, weapons, and intelligence.
When the Soviet Union withdraws troops, and the United States withdraws assistance in 1989,
the Mujahideen are left fighting for power over the "new" Afghanistan.
The fighting results in a war-torn land and people, ruled by fear and an extreme form of Islam know as Islamic Fundamentalism.
Common Myths about Islam
Jihad means "Holy War" and it is being waged against the West.
Islam is Intolerant of Non-Muslims
Islam Degrades Women
The Truth about Islam...
1. Jihad literally means "struggle" and the religion preaches self-improvement as a struggle against one's selfish desires and a community struggle to overcome injustice.
Islamic Fundamentalist (aka Extremists) have used the term "Jihad" in an abusive way, which most Westerners have to come to learn and accept as truth.
2. "The Quran and other Muslim texts preach tolerance of non-Muslims, and especially emphasize the value of human life, the ban on killing non-combatants, and respect for people of other religions" (Safi).
Islamic Fundamentalists have once again received more attention from the Western world with their crude interpretations and teachings of violence.
Muslim scholars urge people who judge the faith to look at what Muslims believe, not what Fundamentalists do. For example, in many Islam-ruled countries, women are granted few rights (ie. not allowed in public, must cover their bodies entirely, cannot attend schools or hold jobs, etc). But these are not laws based on Quran teachings. Instead they are promoted and carried on by those traditionally in power.
3. Modern Muslims can cite many sections of the Quran that promote the equality of men and women.
Confusing Islamic Fundamentalists with all Muslims is like confusing Radical Christians and their messages of hate and violence with all Christians.
Islamic Fundamentalists, now known as the Taliban, have drastically changed the Afghanistan Amir once knew with their rigid, violent laws. Here he listens to a Talib official brag about their persecution of the Hazara people:
"'Door-to-door. We only rested for food and prayer,' the Talib said. He said it fondly, like a man telling of a great party he'd attended. 'We left the bodies in the streets, and if their families tried to sneak out to drag them back into their homes, we'd shoot them too. We left them in the streets for days. We left them for the dogs. Dog meat for dogs'" (Hosseini 277).
Amir learns that his friend Hassan did not escape the Taliban's persecution, but his son did.

Can Amir find the bravery he's lacked his whole life while facing the Taliban? Will he be able to right the wrong he committed 30 years ago?

Read the book to find out...
Full transcript