How important is it that the story is set in Afghanistan and the USA and predominately among Muslims?
Wouldn't the themes come out strongly if the reader didnt have all that foreign culture, history and language to deal with while reading?
The Kite Runner retains its social importance today because of the United States' continuing presence in Afghanistan. It gives its readers (especially in the U.S.) some informative basic background to both the Soviet Union's takeover of the country in the 1970s as well as to the nature of the country at the turn of the century while under Taliban control. I find the cultural and social information enthralling and not at all clouded by its foreign terminology and setting. I have had many people tell me that they have learned--and understood--more about the Muslim culture after reading the novel than from any other media sources. It certainly presents a sympathetic view of the Afghan people and one that has altered the way in which Americans view the country and its ongoing problems. With the recent finding of the vast mineral resources beneath the nation's soil, The Kite Runner may well grow in importance--both literary and cultural.
Kahled Hosseini can be considered one of the Diasporic writers. Diasporic writers are those that come from other countries for various reasons, are displaced persons, but write about their homelands from their current country of residence. Diasporic Literature involves the idea of a homeland, a place from where a displacement occurs and narratives of harsh journeys are undertaken. The word "Diaspora" refers to a minority community living in exile. The Kite Runner is said to be the first novel written in English by an Afghan writer.
The fact that the story is set in Afghanistan adds a unique cultural richness to themes that certainly are not new - fathers and sons, self-discovery, search for identity, importance of family, atonement and forgiveness. Many works have been written that explore these themes, it is true, but this novel presents the themes in a different milieu. The fact that the characters are mostly Muslims adds a different perspective because the world view in Muslim countries is different than in the United States. The foreign culture, history and language can be distracting, however, but that is because it is new to us, not to the writer.
I have read some Diasporic writers that have even had to include glossaries in the back of the book so that American readers can understand what is going on.