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A Thousand Splendid Suns
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Angela (angelarenea) | 73 comments Mod
We are reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini from June 1st to July 31st 2012. Suzette recommended this book and we will have some discussion questions posted in a few days. Feel free to post anything you think about this book whether or not it is part of a discussion question.
-Angela


Suzette (sdr42890) | 14 comments Mod
Well, it doesn't look like anyone is finished reading the book yet, so I guess I'll have to wait on having a discussion about it. But just to start everyone off once people finish the book:

Did you know much about Afghanistan's history and political situation before reading the book? Did you learn anything new from the book? If you do know a lot about it, is there anything in the book that you can verify as being not true or can you give any additional information that might be interesting to readers?

How do you feel about the portrayal of the treatment of women under the Taliban? Do you feel as though this is accurate? How do you think that this portrayal of women, both before and after the Taliban rises to power, affects the preconceived notions that many Americans have of Middle Eastern women as oppressed and the often racist stereotypes of Middle Eastern and Muslim people in general?

What did you think of the author's unique choice of writing style to switch between the points of view between Laila and Mariam? How do you feel that this added to or improved the feel of the story? Do you think it would have been better if he'd written it in a different format?


Angela (angelarenea) | 73 comments Mod
OK so I know that I'm pretty late finishing this book but I have thoughts I promise! I noticed that my copy of the book there are discussion questions so here they are!

The novel opens with the sentence, “Mariam was five years old the first time she heard the word harami.” How important is that word in the novel? How does Mariam’s illegitimacy shape her life?

• “The next time Mariam signed her name to a document, twenty-seven years later, a mullah would again be present”. Khaled Hosseini foreshadows events, both domestic and national, at many points throughout A Thousand Splendid Suns. What effect does this have?

• “But it was the women who drew Mariam’s eyes the most”. What is it that fascinates Mariam about the women of Kabul, and why does it capture her attention? How are women treated by the various regimes that take control of Afghanistan? How are the main female characters portrayed in the novel? To what extent do these portrayals differ from any preconceptions that you may have had about women in Afghanistan?

• Mariam protests at the idea of marrying Rasheed, begging her father not to force her. What kind of husband does he prove to be? How does she come to feel about him? How does their marriage change? Why do you think Rasheed behaves in the way that he does?

• “And in this fleeting, wordless exchange with Mariam, Laila knew that they were not enemies any longer”. How is the deep bond between Mariam and Laila forged? How does this bond sustain both of them?

• How does the observation of Islam in Kabul differ from Mariam’s hometown of Herat? What part does religion play in her life? How important is it in the novel?

• “To me, it’s nonsense – and very dangerous nonsense at that – all this talk of I’m Tajik and you’re Pashtun and he’s Hazara and she’s Uzbek. We’re all Afghans, and that’s all that should matter”, Laila’s father tells her. How important is this ethnic diversity both in the novel and in what happens to Afghanistan throughout the thirty years the book spans?

• What is the significance of the novel’s title? Why do you think Hosseini chose it?

• What do you think of the novel’s ending?

• How would you describe Hosseini’s writing style? Were there particular passages that impressed you and if so what were they and why?

• How are the West and the Soviet Union portrayed in the novel? What part do they play in Afghanistan’s troubles?

• Hosseini is an expatriate Afghan. To what extent do you think this has influenced the writing of A Thousand Splendid Suns, and his portrayal of Afghanistan?

-Angela


Angela (angelarenea) | 73 comments Mod
First off, I knew barely anything at all about Afghanistan. To be perfectly honest I didn't know it existed until 2001, so I found the description of the politics a bit confusing bordering on boring because I didn't really understand it. But I really liked the description of the culture I found that to be very interesting!

I've come across a few books that have that back and forth style narrative and I like it most times because you get more than one perspective, although sometimes you get the perspective of a character that is in the dark about the events and you are then left in the dark too and that's frustrating. But I really liked the way the author used that style.

I find it interesting that this is written by a man who was born in Afghanistan and moved to the US during the conflicts. It makes me wonder about two things: Is this how people who were in Afghanistan felt, or how he thought they would feel? (Not that it takes away from the story either way, just a thought) and I noticed that both women expressed a since of relief from being covered up completely, and I wonder if that would have been different if a woman had written this. (Again not that it takes away, I think there was legitimate reason for both to feel that way, and the way the nurses/doctors acted about them showed that not everyone was glad for this rule)

I also really didn't like that there were a lot of words I didn't know what they meant (being that they were Islamic/Afghan/etc.) and my nook's dictionary didn't recognize. I think that it made it more frustrating that some of them could have had little explanations next to them, they didn’t, and then the ones that did were in the dialogue. I feel like they wouldn't have explained things like 'thank you' or 'sister' or 'brother' etc. when that's just how they speak.

When the book started, I was a little annoyed at Mariam because I thought she was being kind of extreme towards her father. I do understand that it sucked, but I think she over reacted a bit. I also was annoyed at first because she was acting like her life was terrible and while it was not ideal her husband treated her very well and seemed to dote on her. Obviously he was not perfect (yelling at her when she cried) but he was patient with her and didn't force her to have sex right away and stuff. But then He went all crazy and started... being... not acceptable. I loved Laila and Tajik together and I was so happy when he showed up!

Over all I liked this book and I thought it was a nice alternate perspective on everything going on. What does everyone else think?

-Angela


Suzette (sdr42890) | 14 comments Mod
I agree with you on almost everything Angela. I thought about a lot of the same things. I didn't know much about Afghanistan before reading this book, but honestly, I found all of what I learned from this book to be incredibly interesting, both the politics and the culture. And I also was very curious as to how the people of Afghanistan really feel about some of the issues he brings up and whether or not his opinions are shared with the majority of the people or not. I didn't think about whether or not the characters' opinions on burqa would be different if a woman had written the story, but that's a very interesting question to bring up.

While I agree that sometimes the use of words in another language was confusing, it didn't bother me all that much. I suppose I'm used to that in stories and usually find it really interesting to learn them, however, I agree that he could have done a better job with using that technique. For example, I much prefer the way Arthur Golden used Japanese words in Memoirs of a Geisha because he was able to use the first-person narrative and the story format to his advantage to have Sayuri explain each word to the reader in a way that made sense. However, most of the time I was able to use context clues and it didn't bother me much for this one, but sometimes I assumed they meant the wrong thing which led to some minor confusion.

I really enjoyed the writing style switching between Mariam's point of view and Laila's. I think it was the best way to tell this particular story and helped me really relate to both girls entirely.

I think this book and others like it are very important for American readers. I know many people who, unfortunately, assume certain things about Muslims and Muslim men in general that could learn a lot from reading a book like this. Because this was written by a Muslim man from the Middle East and including a description of what life was like before the Taliban and including characters such as Tajik and Laila's father, I think this story could do a lot to squash the ignorant opinions of some people who assume that all Muslim men are misogynists and that Islam itself oppresses women, rather than believe the reality that its more of a cultural and political practice than a religious practice to treat women that way and that a vast majority of Muslims do not feel that way.


Angela (angelarenea) | 73 comments Mod
I agree! I think that this should be one of those books that you read in school. I liked that even though the main male character was obviously a very negative one, there were other more positive characters who showed that there is more than that abusive Muslim male that everyone seems to think of. That being said if some situations were slightly different, I don't think I'd mind much having that lifestyle. I'm really glad that I am going to have a career, but I'd be OK cleaning and cooking and being a parent all day being taken care of and such.
Also I really liked that group stove/oven thing where all the women got together to cook and socialize. I think that sounds very fun, like a great community spirit.
-Angela


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