Afghan-American writer Khaled Hosseini is famous for his two best-selling novels about Afghanistan, The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007). The novels depict events in the recent history of Afghanistan and have drawn the interest of American readers wanting to know more about the country invaded by the United States in 2001.
Khaled Hosseini was born March 4, 1965, in Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan. He is the oldest of five children. Hosseini’s mother was a literature and history teacher at a high school in Kabul. She taught Hosseini to love classical Persian poetry. His father worked for the foreign ministry, and in the 1970s, the family lived for a time in Tehran, Iran and in Paris.
The family was at home in Kabul in 1973 when King Zahir Shah was overthrown. In 1978 and 1979, as the communists took over Afghanistan and the Soviet Union invaded, Hosseini’s family was in Paris. Rather than return home to a country at war, the Hosseinis moved to the United States, settling in northern California in 1980. They were joined by thousands of other Afghan refugees; over five million Afghans fled the country between 1979 and 1989.
Hosseini was fifteen when his family arrived in the United States, and he spoke almost no English. His family had lost everything they had, and his father found work as a driving instructor. Although Hosseini enjoyed literature in school, he decided to pursue a career as a doctor, knowing that this was an honorable profession that would help him support his family. He graduated from medical school at the University of California in San Diego, then completed his residency at UCLA before setting up medical practice in Pasadena.
As the extremist Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, Hosseini felt compelled to write something about his native country. While still practicing medicine full time, Hosseini began writing a novel. The Kite Runner, a story about two boys growing up in an Afghanistan torn apart by war and ethnic differences, was published in 2003. The novel became a huge international best-seller and was made into a movie in 2007.
Hosseini returned to Afghanistan in 2003, after The Kite Runner was published. It was his first visit to his homeland in twenty-seven years, and while he was saddened to see the devastation that the war had wrought, he was inspired by the spirit of the people. He began working on his second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, shortly after his visit, and soon decided to give up his medical practice to focus on writing.
While The Kite Runner focused on men in Afghanistan, Hosseini wrote A Thousand Splendid Suns to focus on the lives of Afghan women, who were particularly oppressed under the brutal theocratic Taliban government. The book was published in 2007 and, like his first novel, it has become an international best-seller.
In 2006, Hosseini was named a U.S. special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and travels around the world to help refugees of war. He returned to Afghanistan for a second time in 2007 and was saddened that the country had become far less safe as terrorist activity was increasing.
Hosseini lives in northern California with his wife Roya and their two children. As of 2009, he has begun working on a new novel about Afghanistan.