To me, the biggest thing that it teaches us about Afghanistan is how oppressive the Taliban are and brutal their regime was. It helps us to understand just how different their societal values are from our values. We prize individuality and self-expression. They prize obedience to their vision of what God wants.
I have had both adults and students tell me that they learned more about life in the Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iraq region of the world from The Kite Runner than from any other source. Khaled Hosseini speaks from a first-hand knowledge of the region, and he infuses many true historical facts within his fictional novel. If the reader learns nothing else, he should realize that war is a fact of life in Afghanistan--be it occupation by the Russians, Americans or through civil war. The Kite Runner also serves as a history lesson on the varied culture diversity of the region, from the flying of kites to the melon sellers in the Kabul markets. It also shows how the Afghani transplants in California band together to create yet another unusual American sub-culture. The politics of the region is ever-changing, thanks in large part to the continued Taliban and American presence. Hosseini ends his novel with a sense of hope for both Amir's family and for the future of his country--a hopefulness that is perhaps premature considering the turmoil that still surrounds Afghanistan.
I am so glad to see this question asked. Seven months in Afghanistan, and teaching Middle Eastern literature, yet I still love how seamlessly Hosseini weaves together his novel alongside the difficulty for the Afghan people who fled in light of Soviet, Taliban and even American invasion.
As you see from the novel, meshing into a new world (America!) while maintaining native culture and tradition are difficult.
Some brief examples (from my lesson plans):
- Afghan marriage rites (an engagement is an essential part of Afghan marriage custom and it's a huge celebration: Takht e Khina or the henna party is just one example
- Afghan law
- Fallen Women: Sex outside a marriage is a crime and Soraya, had she not been in America, would have been convicted and punished. We also learn she must cut her hair in shame because she dishonored the family.
- Words!: A smorgasboard of Pashu words
- History: Russians, Warlords (Massoud, Rabani, and Mujahedin)
- Notions of honor and pride
- The importance of hospitality
- Class Distinctions: Master v. servant
- Languages: Pashtu and Dari (there are more)
- People: Afghan people are related to many ethnic groups (Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan--borders drawn between groups is arbitrary)
- Differences between Pashtun and Hazarra
Khaled Hosseini borrows some concepts (I.E. father/son dichotomy) from a famous 10th century author, Firdawsi, who writes the Epic of Kings (صائب تبریزی).