They’re Human?

Whenever the NY Times does a piece on a book featuring Muslim characters (or, more rarely, written by a Muslim author) I can always expect a few laughs. It’s no different with this article on The Kite Runner, the best-selling tale of a friendship between two Afghan boys, written by physician-turned-novelist Khaled Hosseini.

Let me decode a few things for you (emphasis mine). Consider the opening paragraph:

Few aspects of this swank oceanside resort call to mind the harsh grind of daily life in Kabul, Afghanistan. Yet when a local book group met here recently to discuss “The Kite Runner,” the stunningly successful first novel by an Afghan immigrant, many group members said they felt they were reading pages out of their own lives.

In other words, readers of this novel can be assured of its ‘universality.’ Of course, I suspect that when Muslim readers are bombarded with the latest John Grisham or Stephen King, no one bothers to convince them that the characters have lives just like their own.

And in case you missed that opening paragraph, let’s repeat the lesson:

People who have read the book, however, speak almost exclusively of how they were touched by its universal themes. “There are so many basic human emotions at work here,” said John Tegano, a member of the Palm Beach group.

But wait, there’s more!

The reactions of the Palm Beach group suggest that [it will continue to sell for a year or two]. “I recognized so many things that happened in my time,” Ms. Campbell said, referring to the years she spent living in a French convent, a Jewish girl hidden away by the nuns as her parents and dozens of neighbors were deported by the Nazis. “What struck me about the characters here is that they’re all very human.”

Gasp! You don’t say! You mean they’re the same species as us?

All joking aside, I was concerned when I read that the original draft of the book had the Afghan protagonist marry an American woman, but the publisher thought that it was too “unbelieveable” and made Hosseini change the wife to an Afghan. Recently, author Jervey Tervalon revealed in an L.A. Weekly article that he was told by his black editor that unless he “changed the white, upper-class love interest of my black protagonist to something, anything else” he couldn’t get the book published. Someone should ring publishers and inform them that miscegenation is legal.