After a day of classes, studying, outlining, a nap, and other finals prep, I have a Bookworms post for you today.
This is one of my favorites, a book much like the dedication to Afghanistan in The Kite Runner, this one is a focus on the lives of Muslim women. As one of the stories I have grown to appreciate the most over the years, here’s what I’ve got.
A Thousand Splendid Suns– Khaled Hosseini
If you have read The Kite Runner, Hosseini’s writing style should feel familiar among the streets of Kabul yet again. Set in Afghanistan as the wars break overhead and the Taliban takes over the realities so many knew, the main character Mariam introduce the readers to her own world.
As a harami, what many also know as Jon Snow’s bastard status, Mariam is treated terribly from the very beginning. She is the first character we meet within the novel, and through her eyes, we are introduced to a Muslim culture not often seen in mainstream media.
Throughout the novel, there is love, hope, combat, hardship, and family, but most importantly there is endurance. Mariam’s existence itself is a defiance to what many other characters believe is “proper” or “right.” From a young age, she is forced to face tragedy and misfortune head on, her life dependent on how well she followed rules. The way Hosseini weaves the concepts of political control and cultural gender norms is done seamlessly through his characters; he does so to prove a point, one I hope you find if you read this book.
As women, Mariam and so many others are seen as subordinate. But they do not stay that way.
Beyond endurance, there is also a focus on education– in order to have a more productive and focused society, we need to have educated people. This idea is fostered by the character of Laila, someone bound to Mariam and her own life by unfortunate circumstance. As Laila and Mariam’s fates intersect, they come to love, hate, and rely on one another as the story unfolds. Though they are not related by blood, this book brings to question the concept of family and resilience: just how strong can someone be when they are not fighting solely for themselves?
The characters and images in this novel are half the battle, as they make it easy to slip into the pages and get caught up in the story. Though their lives are something I have never come close to living, there are still many ways to connect to these characters and their experiences. Whether it’s the fighting spirit Mariam turns out to have or the devotion of Laila, the narrative perspectives of these two women are what drive this story forward.
As the second time I have read this book, again closely following Hosseini’s other work The Kite Runner, I got the chance to read it with a larger perspective and understanding of the world than I had before. No matter your age or the life you live, this book is an incredible opportunity to step into the streets of Kabul for a short while and understand what it means to live to see a thousand splendid suns hiding behind the leaves.
See you Friday.