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The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini '88 is enjoying an incredibly successful ride with the publication of his first novel, The Kite Runner (Riverhead Books, 2003). Set in Afghanistan and the Bay Area, the book has been described as Missing meets Midnight Express by the Wall Street Journal, and a "vivid and engaging story" by the New York Times. The film rights were purchased in August by DreamWorks studio shortly after the book's release, and it has been on the best seller lists in Northern California and in Canada.
"It's wonderful," says Hosseini, who was a chemistry major at SCU. "For a first-time novelist, it couldn't possibly be any better."
Hosseini, who works as an internist for Kaiser Permanente in Mountain View, wrote much of the book by getting up at 5 a.m. before he started his job. He lives in Sunnyvale with his wife Roya, and two young children.
The novel tells of the past thirtyfive years in Afghanistan, from tranquil times in the 1960s through life under the Taliban. The story is told through the experiences of Amir, son of a wealthy man, and Hassan, son of a family servant and member of a poor ethnic minority group. Some of the characters eventually emigrate to the Bay Area, living in the city of Fremont and selling items at the San Jose Berryessa Flea Market.
While it is a work of fiction, parts of the book parallel Hosseini's own life. As a boy, he flew kites in the winter and watched American westerns dubbed in the Farsi language, as characters in his book do. Hosseini's father was in the foreign service, but the family came to the U.S. in 1980 after receiving political asylum. Hosseini knew little English when he arrived, but by the time he started at SCU in 1984, he was fluent.
In the novel's final chapters, one character returns to Afghanistan to adopt a baby. Hosseini had no experience with adoption, so he turned to Lynette Parker, an attorney at the School of Law's East San Jose Community Law Center, for the information.
Hosseini started a family tradition of attending SCU: his brothers, Walid '89 and Daoud '95, are also graduates, as is a cousin, Mariam Hosseini '00. Hosseini says one of the best parts of his recent book tour has been hearing from long-lost SCU classmates.
A flood of theories about Noah
The idea for a book about Noah came when J. David Pleins, professor of religious studies at Santa Clara University, was interviewed for a National Geographic Society video about recent discoveries in the Black Sea that were believed to offer new evidence on the biblical story of Noah's Ark.
In his book When the Great Abyss Opened: Classic and Contemporary Readings of Noah's Flood (Oxford University Press, 2003), Pleins examines four approaches to looking at the story of Noah and his ark, ranging from fundamentalist to scientific views.
Pleins, who teaches courses in biblical studies and comparative ancient Near Eastern literature and mythology draws on a variety of sources in his book, from Joseph Campbell's study of myths and the views of medieval rabbis, to Pope John Paul II's call for the Catholic Church to hold an open dialogue with the scientific community in 1996.
"To probe the mythic meaning of the ancient flood legends," Pleins writes, "is to probe our deepest selves. Through such tales we come to see the integral character of the core values and virtues that have woven together entire civilizations throughout the centuries."