The Problem with the Exploitation of Afghani Trauma in Khaled Hosseini's Work
With the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, I've come across several tweets and posts praising Hosseini's work and depending solely (or mostly) on what they have learnt from The Kite Runner, and The Mountains Echoed and A Thousand Splendid Suns to inform themselves about the situation, and echoing his views from each of those books. No one can argue that Hosseini's work is captivating and moving and invokes sympathy for the plight of Afghani women under the Taliban. I do, however, take issue with people's knowledge of the Afghans coming solely from the work of a man who I can't help but feel has commodified Afghan suffering for a primarily Western consciousness.
We've discussed the importance of representation and how representation of colonized people and their values plays a crucial role in the distortion of realities, a phenomenon that occurs increasingly often in and by the West. Hosseini's work largely misrepresents Pshtuns, a group that represents over 40 percent of Afghanistan. He presents them as selfish and immoral people to justify the occupation of the country by American forces who (as per usual) are presented as 'saviors.' The image of these people and their culture that Hosseini presents in his books has played a major role in molding stereotypes among his readers. He seems to be deeply inspired (to a fault) by the West and his writing seems to be paving grounds for American intrusion into Afghanistan. He is a native informer, but his prejudices are disorienting and do more harm than good in educating people about the situation and history of Afghanistan. While reading his books, I think it is extremely important to remember that he is a storyteller, not a historian.
If you're reading this, I would also urge you to read into Afghani views and critiques of his work for more insight on why it's so problematic.