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Khaled Hosseini, the author, expresses his disappointment with book bans in the United States, stating that it is a betrayal to students.
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Khaled Hosseini, the author, expresses his disappointment with book bans in the United States, stating that it is a betrayal to students.

Renowned author Khaled Hosseini has strongly criticized book bans in Florida and other parts of the US, deeming them a disservice to students and their fundamental right to receive a quality education.

A recent report from PEN America revealed that there were approximately 5,894 instances of book banning in public schools in the US between July 2021 and June 2023, with over 40% occurring in Florida. The targeted authors are often female, people of color, and/or identify as LGBTQ+, according to PEN.

In an interview with the Guardian, Hosseini stated that banning books does not safeguard students, but rather betrays them.

Hosseini drew parallels between the current trend of book banning in the US, primarily led by social conservatives and Republicans, and the emergence of authoritarian regimes in Europe during the 1930s. He expressed disbelief that such censorship is still prevalent in the 21st century, likening it to events in Europe decades ago.

According to him, in a democratic society, it is crucial for students to be exposed to diverse ideas, to think critically, and to hear perspectives different from their own. It is important for them to understand that they will coexist with individuals who may have different appearances and voices. Books are an excellent way to facilitate this understanding.

The school board in Brevard County, Florida, made the decision to retain The Kite Runner book by Hosseini after receiving a sincere letter from the author requesting that they do not ban his work.

The novel by Hosseini, depicting the coming of age of a young boy in Kabul during the 1970s, remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and has since sold over 8 million copies globally. Against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s war-torn setting, it explores intricate concepts such as friendship, betrayal, and family tension.

During the academic year 2021-2022, this book was among the most frequently prohibited in the United States.

In recent months, The Kite Runner has been added to a list of titles that are being reviewed or challenged by school boards across the country.

There are approximately 40 books that have yet to be formally reviewed in the Brevard County school district. The decision on whether these books will be included in the curriculum or available for students to borrow will depend on the selection committee’s decision.

In January, Hosseini was notified that a school board committee in Florida was challenging his book. He was advised that it could be effective to directly communicate with them.

The announcement was expected; the local branch of Moms for Liberty, a conservative organization advocating for parental rights, filed a complaint against The Kite Runner in 2022. They claimed that the novel, as well as other popular books such as Slaughterhouse-Five, had explicit sexual content, promoted racial division, and criticized Christianity, making it unsuitable for students.

Hosseini determined that a letter would be the most effective method for persuading the school board to reconsider their decision and support the ongoing inclusion of his book.

He started by saying, “There is a collection of manilla envelopes stored in a drawer in my office desk.”

I have gathered a collection of writings spanning almost 20 years, which I still continue to do. These writings were submitted by high school students from various parts of the US. The students express, often in a poignant manner, how reading The Kite Runner has affected their lives.

Hosseini discusses the impact his novel has had on young readers since it was released in 2003. His writing has not only given them a glimpse into Afghan culture, but also aided them in navigating difficult situations in their everyday lives at school and home. This shows that his novel has had a lasting and tangible effect.

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Cover of The Kite Runner book by Khaled HosseiniView image in fullscreen

“The students have been deeply affected by The Kite Runner; it has resonated with them in a genuine manner,” he shared with the Guardian. “It is a great honor to know that the words I have written can make a positive difference.”

Hosseini was overjoyed to receive notification that his book would be reinstated on shelves in Brevard County as a result of his letter. However, he soon received another notification of a ban in a separate district.

Authors such as George M Johnson, Maia Kobabe, and Ellen Hopkins face ongoing threats and obstacles from book bans in the US.

The author of the autobiography All Boys Aren’t Blue, Johnson, also succeeded in a school board appeal after their mother delivered a compelling statement on their behalf during a meeting in New Jersey.

According to Johnson’s mother, our books do not introduce teens to difficult subjects. Rather, they serve as a necessary tool for them to comprehend the challenging issues they face in their daily lives.

The prohibition was reversed and the book remained in the library, however not all writers who directly petition school boards receive the same response.

Being a father himself, Hosseini recognized the natural instinct of parents to protect their children. However, he strongly believes that the majority of high school students are much more mature and knowledgeable than the parents leading the charge against certain activities give them credit for.

According to him, books that have been banned such as The Kite Runner can effectively and positively challenge students in the United States and other countries.

He stated that books are a priceless and immeasurable gift because they open up the world to us.

“Explore both agreeing and disagreeing perspectives – it is my hope that this difficult period we are experiencing is a result of current politics and will eventually come to an end.”

Source: theguardian.com