Khaled Hosseini

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Khaled Hosseini
Khaled Hosseini at the White House in 2007
Khaled Hosseini at the White House in 2007
Native name
خالد حسینی
BornKhaled Hosseini
(1965-03-04) 4 March 1965 (age 56)
Kabul, Afghanistan
OccupationNovelist, physician
CitizenshipUnited States
Notable worksThe Kite Runner
A Thousand Splendid Suns
And the Mountains Echoed
Sea Prayer
SpouseRoya Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini (Persian: خالد حسینی[ˈxɒled hoˈsejni]; /ˈhɑːlɛd hˈsni/; born 4 March 1965) is an Afghan-American novelist and UNHCR goodwill ambassador.[1][2] His debut novel The Kite Runner (2003) was a critical and commercial success; the book, as well as his subsequent novels, have all been at least partially set in Afghanistan and has featured an Afghan as the protagonist.

Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, to a diplomat father, Hosseini spent some time living in Iran and France. When Hosseini was 15, his family applied for asylum in the United States, where he later became a naturalized citizen. Hosseini did not return to Afghanistan until 2003[3] when he was 38, an experience similar to that of the protagonist in The Kite Runner. In later interviews, Hosseini admitted to feeling survivor's guilt for having been able to leave the country prior to the Soviet invasion and subsequent wars.

After graduating from college, Hosseini worked as a physician in California, a situation he likened to "an arranged marriage".[4] The success of The Kite Runner meant he was able to retire from medicine in order to write full-time. His three novels have all reached various levels of critical and commercial success. The Kite Runner spent 101 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list, including three weeks at number one.[5] His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), spent 103 weeks on the chart, including 15 at number one[6][7] while his third novel, And the Mountains Echoed (2013), remained on the chart for 33 weeks.[8][9] In addition to writing, Hosseini has advocated for refugees, including establishing with the UNHCR the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to support Afghan refugees returning to Afghanistan.[10]

Early life and education[edit]

Early life[edit]

Hosseini was born on March 4, 1965 in Kabul, Afghanistan, the eldest of five children.[11] His father, Nasser, worked as a diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kabul while his mother worked as a Persian language teacher at a girls' high school; both originate from Herat.[11] Regarding his ethnicity, Hosseini stated, "I'm not pure anything. There's a Pashtun part of me, a Tajik part of me."[12] His mother's family is believed to be from the Mohammadzai tribe of Pashtuns.[13] Hosseini describes his upbringing as privileged. He spent eight years of his childhood in the upper class Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in Kabul.[11][12][14] Hosseini does not recall his sister, Raya, ever suffering discrimination for being a female,[14] and he remembers Kabul as "a growing, thriving, cosmopolitan city", where he regularly flew kites with his cousins.[15]

In 1970, Hosseini and his family moved to Iran where his father worked for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Tehran. In 1973, Hosseini's family returned to Kabul, and Hosseini's youngest brother was born in July of that year. In 1976, when Hosseini was 11 years old, his father secured a job in Paris, France, and moved the family there.[16] They were unable to return to Afghanistan because of the April 1978 Saur Revolution in which the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) seized power. In 1980, shortly after the start of the Soviet–Afghan War, they sought political asylum in the United States and made their residence in San Jose, California. Hosseini, then aged 15, did not speak English when he first arrived in the United States. He describes the experience as "a culture shock" and "very alienating".[16]

Despite their distance from the country's turmoil, the family was aware of the situations faced by a number of their friends and relatives. Hosseini explained:

We had a lot of family and friends in Kabul. And the communist coup, as opposed to the coup that happened in '73, was actually very violent. A lot of people rounded up and executed, a lot of people were imprisoned. Virtually anybody [who] was affiliated or associated with the previous regime or the royal family was persecuted, imprisoned, killed, rounded up, or disappeared. And so we would hear news of friends and acquaintances and occasionally family members to whom that had happened, [who] were either in prison or worse, had just disappeared and nobody knew where they were, and some of them never turned up. My wife's uncle was a very famous singer and composer in Kabul who had been quite vocal about his dislike for the communists and so on, and he disappeared. And to this day, we have no idea what happened to him. So that sort of thing, we began to hear news over in Europe of mass executions and really just horror stories. So it was surreal, and it also really kind of hit home in a very real way.[11]


Hosseini graduated from Independence High School in San Jose in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1988. The following year, he entered the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, where he earned his M.D. in 1993. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 1997. He practiced medicine for over ten years, until a year and a half after the release of The Kite Runner.



Hosseini with President George W Bush and First lady Laura Bush
Khaled Hosseini with actors from The Kite Runner, Bahram and Elham Ehsas.

In 2003, Hosseini published his first novel, The Kite Runner, the story of a young boy, Amir, struggling to form a deeper connection with his father and coping with memories of a traumatic childhood event. The novel is set in Afghanistan, from the fall of the monarchy until the collapse of the Taliban regime, as well as in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically in Fremont, California. The novel was the best selling novel of 2005 in the United States, according to Nielsen BookScan.[17] The Kite Runner was also produced as an audiobook read by the author. The Kite Runner has been adapted into a film of the same name released in December 2007. Hosseini made a cameo appearance towards the end of the movie as a bystander, when Amir buys a kite which he later flies with Sohrab.

Hosseini's second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was published in 2007, and is also set in Afghanistan. The story addresses many of the same issues as Hosseini's first book, but from a female perspective. It follows the story of two women, Mariam and Laila, whose lives become entwined when Mariam's husband takes on Laila as a second wife. The story is set during Afghanistan's tumultuous thirty-year transition from Soviet occupation to Taliban control and post-Taliban rebuilding. The novel was released by Riverhead Books on May 22, 2007, at the same time as the Simon & Schuster audiobook. The adaptation rights of the novel were subsequently acquired by producer Scott Rudin and Columbia Pictures.[18]

Hosseini's third novel And the Mountains Echoed was released on May 21, 2013. Prior to its release, Hosseini said:

I am forever drawn to family as a recurring central theme of my writing. My earlier novels were at heart tales of fatherhood and motherhood. My new novel is a multi-generational family story as well, this time revolving around brothers and sisters, and the ways in which they love, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for each other."[19]

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees[edit]

Hosseini is currently a Goodwill Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).[20] He has been working to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan through the Khaled Hosseini Foundation. The concept for the foundation was inspired by the trip to Afghanistan that Hosseini made in 2007 with UNHCR, with the organisation raising funds to build homes for refugees returning to Afghanistan.[10]

In 2018, Hosseini published an illustrated short story, Sea Prayer, inspired by the death of Alan Kurdi, a three year old refugee who drowned when trying to reach Europe from Syria. Proceeds from sales went to the UNHCR and the Khaled Hosseini Foundation.[10]


As a child, Hosseini read a lot of Persian poetry, especially the works of poets such as Rumi, Omar Khayyám, Abdul-Qādir Bēdil, and Hafez. He has also cited a Persian translation of Jack London's White Fang as a key influence from his youth, in addition to translations of novels including Alice in Wonderland and Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series.[21][22] He has cited Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir as a key musical influence, choosing the songs "Madar' and "Aye Padesha Khuban" as his two Inheritance Tracks during an appearance on BBC Radio 4's Saturday Live, and naming Zahir as "the Afghan Elvis" and stating his music was "one of the seminal memories of my time in Afghanistan".[23][24][25]

Personal life[edit]

Hosseini is married to Roya and they have two children, Haris and Farah. The family reside in Northern California. He is fluent in Persian and Pashto, and has described himself as a secular Muslim.[26][27][28]



Exclusive Books Boeke Prize

British Book Awards

Book Sense Book of the Year Awards

  • 2008: A Thousand Splendid Suns for Adult Fiction[31]

California Book Award Silver Medal

  • 2007: A Thousand Splendid Suns for Fiction[32]

Goodreads Choice Award

Other Awards[edit]

In 2008, he received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bilal ibn Rasheed The not-so-curious case of Khaled Hosseini Archived 2013-10-22 at the Wayback Machine. Jang Group of Newspapers
  2. ^ "A Critical Response to the Pashtun Bashing in The Kite Runner, by Nationalist Pashtun Rahmat Rabi Zirakyar". Dawat Independent Media Center (DIMC). Archived from the original on 2014-08-15.
  3. ^ Grossman, Lev (2007-05-17). "The Kite Runner Author Returns Home". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  4. ^ Miller, David (June 7, 2013). "Khaled Hosseni author of Kite Runner talks about his mistress: Writing". Loveland Magazine. Archived from the original on August 31, 2013. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  5. ^ "Best Sellers: Paperback Trade Fiction: Sunday, September 18th 2011". The New York Times. September 18, 2011.
  6. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer. "Hardcover". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. May 11, 2008.
  8. ^ Dallas Morning News archive. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  9. ^ New York Times Best Seller list, January 12, 2014. Retrieved February 11, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Khaled Hosseini". UNHCR. Retrieved 2021-03-25.
  11. ^ a b c d "Khaled Hosseini, M.D. Biography and Interview". American Academy of Achievement.
  12. ^ a b Tranter, Kirsten (June 1, 2013). "Remaking home". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  13. ^ Rabi Zirakyar, Rahmat (May 31, 2013). "KITE RUNNER: A PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATION?". Sabawoon Online. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Young, Lucie (May 19, 2007). "Despair in Kabul". Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  15. ^ "'Kite Runner' Author On His Childhood, His Writing, And The Plight Of Afghan Refugees". Radio Free Europe. June 21, 2012. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  16. ^ a b Hoby, Hermione (May 31, 2013). "Khaled Hosseini: 'If I could go back now, I'd take The Kite Runner apart'". The Guardian. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
  17. ^ "Harry Potter tops US best-seller list for 2005". 2006-01-07. Archived from the original on 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  18. ^ LaPorte, Nicole; Fleming, Michael (2007-02-01). "Rudin buys rights to 'Suns'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  19. ^ "'Kite Runner' author Khaled Hosseini will release a new novel this spring". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
  20. ^ (22 May 2007) "Words of support for UNHCR as Kite Runner author publishes new novel" United Nations Commission on Human Rights Archived 24 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ And the Mountains Echoed Q&A with Khaled Hosseini Archived 2013-11-02 at the Wayback Machine page 2
  22. ^ (June 6, 2013) Khaled Hosseini: By the Book
  23. ^ Terry Deary, Khaled Hosseini and Mr Mitchell Saturday Live - 26 October 2013,
  24. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Live - Downloads". BBC.
  25. ^ (May 23, 2013) Pick Three: Khaled Hosseini Archived 2015-12-08 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on 2014-06-05. Retrieved 2014-01-23.
  28. ^ About our Executive Team Archived 2017-01-03 at the Wayback Machine The Khaled Hosseini Foundation
  29. ^ Exclusive Books Boeke Prize WinnersGoodreads
  30. ^ Rowling honoured at book awards Archived 2017-01-11 at the Wayback Machine BBC News
  31. ^ Book Sense Book of the Year Award Winners Goodreads
  32. ^ California Book Award Silver Medal Winners Goodreads
  33. ^ CHOICE AWARDS 2013 Goodreads
  34. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  35. ^ "2008 Summit". Dr. Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner, receiving the Golden Plate Award presented by Awards Council member Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, during the 2008 Summit in Hawaii.

External links[edit]