A thousand splendid “truths” about Afghanistan

This weekend, I was talking to some friends about the increasing popularity of all those fiction bestsellers from other countries, namely Khaled Hosseini’s “Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns“. People like reading them in part because Hosseini is a good writer, but they also like reading them because they feel like they are learning about life in Afghanistan.

The conversation turned to whether or not it is a good idea for the “American masses” to get their ideas about what life in Afghanistan is like from fiction. Imagine what everyone in Afghanistan would think about the US if they only read, say, Toni Morrison’s abuse-filled books. Yes, that type of abuse certainly exists here, but that’s not all there is in the US.

On one hand, Hosseini was born in Afghanistan and is clearly familiar with the life there. I don’t doubt that the kind of abuse he describes so vividly in his books actually happens in Afghanistan. At the same time, the characters are fictional and the situations made up. Can people actually separate truth from fiction when it comes to Afghanistan, a country we know so little about?