“Write what you know,” said Mark Twain. Khaled Hosseini has done better. He has engaged our interest and our emotions in two remarkable books about Afghanistan, where he was born in 1965 and spent the first decade of his life.
Hosseini’s father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother a teacher of Farsi and History at a large high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Afghan Foreign Ministry sent the Hosseini family to Paris. They were due to return in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had fallen victim to a bloody communist coup and the Soviet army had invaded. The Hosseinis sought, and were granted, political asylum in the United States. In September of 1980, they settled in San José, California.
Khaled Hosseini graduated from high school in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he received a degree in Biology. The following year, he enrolled at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, from where he graduated with a degree in Medicine in 1993. Hosseini completed his residency at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles.
In 2001, whilst working as a doctor, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner. The book was published two years later, and has since become an international bestseller, with more than 12 million copies sold worldwide. A movie was made in 2007, with much of the dialogue spoken in Dari Persian.
His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was published in May 2007. Its power lies in the heartbreaking account of the lives of women living under the Taliban. A Thousand Splendid Suns is currently published in 60 countries.
But Hosseini’s contribution to the country of his birth goes further still. In 2006, he was named a goodwill envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. Inspired by a UNHCR trip to Afghanistan in 2007, Hosseini decided to set up the the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, whose goal is to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. He says of his trip:
“The refugees I met did not ask for charity. They were a resilient, hard-working, and resourceful people, eager to rebuild their country and put the dark past behind them. What they asked for was access to some very basic resources, shelter and education foremost among them, so they could work to fulfill their own dreams and hopes. My Foundation’s goal is to provide the most vulnerable groups in Afghanistan – women, children, and refugees – with the opportunity to do just that. I know that providing them with shelter and access to education will give them a sense of control over their lives and allow them to begin rebuilding their broken country.”
In May 2010, Hosseini was awarded the Vanderbilt University’s Nichols-Chancellor's Medal, one of the university’s highest honours. It is given “to individuals who define the 21st century and exemplify the best qualities of the human spirit.” All proceeds from the prize were donated to the Khaled Hosseini Foundation.
In the same month, Hosseini received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from the Feminist Majority Foundation. This award is given annually to individuals who have contributed to advancing the rights of women and girls and to increasing awareness of the injustices women face. He received the award for bringing awareness to the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan through his writing, as well as advocacy as UNHCR Goodwill Envoy and founder of the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. He has donated the honorarium to the Foundation.
Khalid Hosseini lives with his wife Roya and their two children in northern California.
The Times Interview - 12 December 2008
The Guardian Interview - 4 May 2008
The Khaled Hosseini Foundation
The Khaled Hosseini Foundation was established in 2007 after Khaled Hosseini made an inspirational trip to Afghanistan with the UNHCR. In 2009 the Foundation became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation focuses on providing shelters for families, economic opportunities and jobs for women, and education for children.
Our Student Outreach for Shelters (SOS) program is a service learning based program that focuses on expanding the educational opportunities available to those studying Hosseini’s novels while also providing students an opportunity to connect with and aid the community and people they have learned about.
The initial program will focus on A Thousand Splendid Suns, although an expanded curriculum will be developed shortly that will also cover The Kite Runner. The program will focus on tailoring and expanding the existing study guides into standards-based lesson plans and activities for high school students or other participants, while also incorporating a services component to raise funds for shelters in Afghanistan.
The idea for the SOS program came about after we received numerous emails and letters from students and educators alike who were interested in additional resources to assist in the study of these novels and in creating a meaningful connection for their students and the people and culture studied. We are grateful to educators who are teaching the novels to their students as we feel it is a key component in raising awareness and increasing tolerance for others. As a way to give back to these champions of education and sculptors of young minds, we wanted to develop a program that would make the instruction of the novels easier for the educators.
While initially created for educators, this program is easily adaptable to other organizations. Refer to “The Afghan Refugee Crisis – From Analysis to Outreach” lesson plan for activities adaptable to non-educational institutions.
For more information, visit www.khaledhosseinifoundation.org