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You may already know A Thousand Splendid Suns author Khaled Hosseini from his 2003 novel The Kite Runner. If not, allow us to jog your memory—it probably left you crying like a baby. Be warned. This one might jerk a few tears out of you, too.
Okay, okay—so our copy might be so waterlogged that we can't read it anymore, but what are you gonna do?
Like The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on Afghanistan, Hosseini's birthplace. Unlike The Kite Runner, however, this novel is focused on the lives of Afghan women. Hosseini returned to Afghanistan for the first time in almost thirty years just before writing this novel and was moved by the stories of the women he met there. Fragments of these real life stories made it right into the novel.
Do you remember Malala Yousafzai? She's the young Pakistani girl who was attacked by the Taliban for the unforgivable crime of going to school. Thankfully, her story has a happy ending, but many of her Middle East peers aren't as lucky. Times are tough for women in Afghanistan.
As you read A Thousand Splendid Suns, you'll come to know Laila and Mariam, two women who come from radically different walks of life. Laila enjoys a relatively stable home life, works hard at school, and spends her afternoons daydreaming about her lifelong crush. Mariam, on the other hand, is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy businessman and faces a huge amount of social stigma from the day she is born.
And that's just the beginning. Hosseini was so moved by his experiences in Afghanistan and the writing of A Thousand Splendid Suns that he founded the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help Afghans in need—especially Afghan women. Read this book to find out what it's all about; maybe it will inspire you, too.
Okay, so we figure there are two ways to go about this. We could tell you how A Thousand Splendid Suns is an intimate look at a country that has played a huge role in global politics over the last decade. We could tell you how America's continued presence in Afghanistan is proof that the country has a direct impact on you. We could tell you that learning more about the country's history can only be a good thing.
But that's only half of it.
True, A Thousand Splendid Suns is totally concerned with the political upheavals that have transformed Afghanistan over the past half-century. However, the novel is truly focused on the lives of individuals. And let us tell you, you already know these individuals very well.
That's because you've gone to high school and college with them. You know someone like Laila: smart, beautiful, and more than a little headstrong. You know someone like Tariq: physically challenged, sure, but tough as nails. And you know someone like Mariam: rejected by society, but capable of great things.
So, yeah, you'll learn a lot about the history of Afghanistan by reading A Thousand Splendid Suns. But you might just end up learning a little bit about yourself and your friends too.
The Afghan Women's Writing Project
This organization gives Afghan women a place to share their writing with the world. You can read blog posts from women who lived through similar experiences to those in the novel.
An Interactive Poll of the Afghan Public
Check out this interactive map of Afghanistan that shows poll responses by region. The questions, about government corruption and women's rights, among others, get to the heart of the novel's issues.
A Thousand Splendid Suns IMDB page
So there's supposedly an A Thousand Splendid Suns movie coming out in 2015, but we know few details yet. Keep checking, Shmoopers.
Violence against Women in Afghanistan Rises in 2013
Although the book ends on an optimistic note, this article gives a more concerning look at the future of women's rights in Afghanistan.
A History of Women's Rights in Afghanistan
On the other hand, there's also this long read that looks at the struggle for women's rights in Afghanistan over the past century. There are plenty of women still fighting for their rights in the country.
Khaled Hosseini Interviewed by Mother Jones
In this interview, Hosseini talks in detail about the trip to Afghanistan that directly inspired much of A Thousand Splendid Suns.
Khaled Hosseini: How I Write
Step right up, step right up: we've got writing tips from a best-selling author for you. You can get all of this right now for the low, low price of free.
Khaled Hosseini Discusses A Thousand Splendid Suns
Watch this interview to find out the events that directly inspired the plot and characters of A Thousand Splendid Suns.
A Thousand Splendid Suns Fanmade Trailer
Here's a fan-made trailer for the Thousand Splendid Suns film to hold you over until the real one hits.
Khaled Hosseini on the Real-Life Refugee Crisis in Afghanistan
Check out this interview with Khaled Hosseini, where he takes a look at the real-life issues behind the events of the novel.
Khaled Hosseini on Writing from the Female Point of View
Hosseini had his work cut out for him when he decided to write about two female lead characters. Watch this interview of him discussing the challenges and benefits of his approach.
Khaled Hosseini Reading from A Thousand Splendid Suns
Head over to NPR and listen to Hosseini read a passage from A Thousand Splendid Suns.
A Thousand Splendid Suns Audiobook
Are your eyes getting tired of reading? Check out this audiobook of A Thousand Splendid Suns, read by actress Atossa Leoni.
This photo gallery might as well be a companion piece to the novel. It focuses on the women of Kabul and their struggle for identity.
Map of Afghanistan
This map of Afghanistan will give you more insight into the way that geography plays into the novel's plot. Herat and Kabul are both displayed prominently.
Kabul circa 2006
This picture of Kabul comes from about four years after the events of the novel. It gives a good idea of what the city looks like in a post-Taliban world.
Female Students Coming Home from School in Pre-Soviet Kabul
This image gives you an idea of what Kabul was like before the communists took over.
Buddhas of Bamiyan
In the novel, Laila visits the famous Bamiyan Buddhas with Babi and Tariq. Check out this picture of them, taken before they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.