Julie Tran shares her thoughts on the worldwide phenomenon The Kite Runner, an endless book which knows no geographical or temporal barriers.

Childhood. A simple word that carries such multilayered meanings. What did your childhood entail? Colors of Disney theme parks, creative drawings of your family, or simply joyful snacks with your friends? It is astonishing to think of how children find their memories of the past according to where they were raised. Unarguably, some of the stories provide a degree of contrast that makes it difficult to believe how we have all been children of the same world.

The childhood of Amir in The Kite Runner took place in the 1970s in Afghanistan. There were cheerful days of climbing poplar trees; there were lovely evenings of reading books to Hassan, his best friend; and there were also vivid memories of flying kites. However, to Amir, each joy that he shared with Hassan only deepened his internal conflict as Hassan had been borne to a lower class. As much as Amir adored Hassan, he was ashamed of his friend as they were not of the same social status. Hassan understood that, nevertheless. He was a boy with a big heart who would stand up for Amir in times of need. Whether Amir was trying to impress his father or to win a kite competition, Hassan was his loyal shadow who encouraged him to achieve great things.

The friendship of Amir and Hassan would have been strong if it was not for the restraints that social expectations forced upon them. Amir could not stand up for Hassan the way his friend would do for him. Even though Amir witnessed Hassan being beaten up, he idly stood by. Amir then decided to drive Hassan out of his life to end his internal conflict by framing Hassan for a theft that Hassan did not commit. As brutal as it was, Amir knew that it would be the only way for him only to escape his internal battle, only to discover that it would lead him to seek for self-reclamation many years on.

Soon afterwards, the Soviet Union’s intervention in Afghanistan takes Amir and his father out of the country, further separating Amir from Hassan. Even though in the land of California where there are new opportunities for the future, Amir finds himself living under the shadow of the past. The thirst for redemption overcomes.

Amir returns to his homeland in Afghanistan fifteen years into his marriage in hopes of finding Hassan. He longs for the smile on his best friend’s lips; he longs for the memories of childhood, for the calling that has ached his soul for all these years. Yet, life’s course does not know mercy. Amir learns that Hassan’s life was cut short because he refused to let the Taliban confiscate Amir’s house. Hassan and his wife died heroically, leaving their son in the fate of orphanage where the child is sexually abused.

Amir soon grabs the ticket to redemption: he determines to bring Hassan’s son, Sorhab, to America. Even though the adoption process takes more blood and tears than imagined, Sorhab finally arrives in California. The story folds with the scene where Hassan makes Sorhab smile by teaching him to run kites. This overlapping image resonates what Amir and Hassan used to be in the past, promising a brighter future to come despite all the uncertainty of the present.

Although Hassan is no longer living in the same world with Amir, the impact that he has on Amir’s current life is still prevalent. One of the reasons that has been well hidden from the boys’ past is that they are biologically brothers.

The Kite Runner is a story that is filled with sorrow and irony. It captures the beauty of friendship and childhood under the most sombre light. Even after the book has long ended, it keeps one awake with daunting feelings and endless questions. What is the perception of childhood in our society? What are the forces that separate us from one another? What do we value most in our daily lives and how do they define us?

The Kite Runner’s setting is in a different part of the world, yet it rises to address global emotions and matters that we all share as human beings. The Kite Runner is more than any ordinary story. It connects the past, the present, and the future. It transcends time.


Julie Tran