Monday, May 11, 2009

Guest Student Post: Listen to Their Cries

The following is a guest post submitted by Chris Herko, a CCV Burlington business student in his second semester. He wrote this persuasive paper for his spring 2009 English Composition II (ENG-1062) class with Deborah Straw. If you'd like to contribute some of your work to the CCV Burlington Blog, contact Adam Warrington ( Thanks for your contribution Chris!

Listen to Their Cries
America is great, the land of freedom and opportunity. Now picture the complete opposite: bombs flying everywhere, gunmen lining the streets and men who beat their multiple wives constantly. That was Afghanistan. That is where Khaled Hosseini came from and where A Thousand Splendid Suns, his second novel, took place. This book should be read because it smacks you in the face with imagery, sadness and reality. It capture the realness of what the war has really done to lives and what it is really like to be in a country that doesn’t have “streets paved with gold.”

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. He was raised by his father and mother in Kabul. At a large, local high school, his mother taught Farsi (the native tongue) and history while his father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry. When Khaled was eleven, his father’s job relocated him to Paris, France. Four years later they went back to Afghanistan and returned to a communist bloodbath caused by the Soviet Army. Wanting the best for their child, they fought and succeeded in being granted political asylum in the United States. They moved to San Jose, California, in September of 1980. He enrolled in Santa Clara University after graduating from high school in 1984. At Santa Clara he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology by 1988. Five years later, in 1993, he had earned his medical degree from the University of California-San Diego’s School of Medicine. In Los Angeles he was able to finish his residency at Cedar-Sinai Hospital. Between 1996 and 2004 he interned at four hospitals. He published his first novel, The Kite Runner, during an internship in 2001 (the book was published in 2003). Throughout 48 countries it became an international best seller. Four years later he published A Thousand Splendid Suns after being named as a goodwill envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2006 (Hosseini par 4).

Imagine a world of chocolate rain, ice cream snowflakes, where money doesn’t matter; it is a little farfetched. Now imagine a world where wives can be beaten, men can “own” more than one teenager, and women are jailed or killed if they try to escape the country. Unfortunately, the latter is not as fictional as the first. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a novel about a girl who is eight when she is sold to a husband who already has an older wife. The book goes through her growing up and eventually becoming the older of the two wives. When a younger wife was brought in, feelings of jealousy and anger filled her, and she tried to escape the country. The ending leaves possibilities for a bright future. Throughout the book, Hosseini paints Van Gogh-like pictures in your head as you read of what is going on. As Crystal Caine says, he gives brutal, yet so real, picture of beatings, drunken fights, and anger from all characters:

A Thousand Splendid Suns is well worth the read. The author holds nothing back in painting a stark picture of what it means to be a woman in a culture where they are valued only for how well they keep a house, and how many sons they produce. A culture where they are subject to the whims of men. He also paints a stark picture of how much harm religious fanaticism and intolerance can do. It also shows us the rich history of Afghanistan, a country that has endured, much like Nana said that women must. It shows a country and a people with much potential.(Caine 15)
All of this is happening while the United States is invading Afghanistan. During the book, Hosesini goes into detail about the horror of war for a country that is being bombed. In America, the only sights and sounds we get from overseas are from our televisions or other news media scarcely a story from soldiers themselves. Hosseini, though, lets you see through the eyes of each character as he alternates between the eldest and youngest wives throughout the book. He enters you into a world of houses that are within a mile of bombs being dropped, he makes you feel as if you feel the explosion every time a bomb hits the ground. He makes you feel as if you are just that close to the sight of blood, death and tears of the native Afghans. Hosseini makes you feel lucky to live in a place with so few hardships compared to those in Afghanistan. Most of us cannot know what it is like to live in fear, fear that is there when you sleep, eat and walk the streets. Most readers cannot truly understand what it is like to be the neglected second wife in a country where it is okay to hit your spouses.

Jason Straziuso, author of The Guardian, lists some of the harsh guidelines that women have to follow in Afghanistan:

You will not, under any circumstances, show your face. You will cover with burqa when outside. If you do not, you will be severely beaten.
You will not wear charming clothes.
You will not speak unless spoken to.
You will not make contact with men.
You will not laugh in public. If you do, you will be beaten.
You will not paint your nails. If you do, you will lose a
finger. (The Guardian par. 3)
Although the book gives harsh realities, it also teaches us many things. It teaches us that we need to be grateful for the lives we live in America, to not take things for granted and be able to love one another without physical brutality. It also teaches us the history of Afghanistan and gives us a sense of what their last thirty years have really been like. It also teaches us about cultures and how they can change; it teaches us that change takes patience, time and can be difficult. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a book that spreads the culture, history and reality of Afghanistan. With a great imagery and almost unimaginable reality, Khaled Hosseini delivers a novel that should be read by all.

However, people like Steven Jonah (author of the article “Un-American?”), say this book should not be read. Some, like Jonah, believe the book is un-American. He believes that it tries to convince people that Afghanistan is more deserving of aid. Critics feel that it takes away from the patriotic spirit in Americans. Also, teachers and some parents feel that it is too harsh for younger audiences. There are graphic scenes and brutal realities that show what it is really like in Afghanistan. It may not be good for younger people to read this because it could put fear into them about war that they do not need at such a young age. It could give them nightmares, bad thoughts or even ideas that it is okay to hit women and treat them in such a negative manner. Children should not be exposed to war or physical abuse of women unless they are mature enough to understand that it is a culture that will most likely not be seen in most American homes. They need to know that a different form of government is in place there and rules are extremely different than they are here (Jonah par. 1-3).

In conclusion, A Thousand Splendid Suns teaches us, reminds us and lifts us. For all these reasons, if you have not read it, you should. He breaks your heart with sadness and death of natives that do not deserve such brutality. Khaled Hosseini paints masterpieces in your head of harsh realties, true stories and graphic histories of the country and its culture. In the future, I hope that more people can read A Thousand Splendid Suns and realize what a terrible burden the war has become and how awful it really is, at least in Afghanistan.

Works Cited
Caine, Crystal. “Splendid Read.” Santa Clara Times. 16 May 2007: 15B.

Hosseini, Khaled. A Thousand Splendid Suns. New York: Penguin Readers, 2007.

Jonah, Steven. “Un-American?” 20 June 2007. MorialeKafal. 23 March 2007.

Khaled Hosseini. May 2007. Authorbytes. 23 March 2009.

Straziuso, Jason. The Guardian. 9 December 2006. RAWA. 23 March 2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment