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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Excellent graphic novel version of "The Kite Runner" that you probably can't use int he classroom. Sigh.

Hosseini, Khaled; Celoni, Fabio; Andolfo, Mirka (2011) The Kite Runner Graphic Novel. London, Bloomsbury.
     You've probably read the novel and you remember how powerful the story is.  The Kite Runner takes place in Afghanistan in the 1970s.  Amir and his friend Hassan (both around 12 years old) are hoping to win the local kite-fighting tournament.  Then Kassan is violently and sexually abused by a gang of bullies.  What follows is the story of Amir's quest to heal the brokenness and find redemption.  This is a painful story about how broken the world is, but it is not a story without hope.
     The adaptation is brilliant.  The illustrations capture the beautiful scenery, but also the pain and sorrow.  Celoni especially excels at conveying a great deal through facial expressions.  The book also does a good job of using the panel divisions to advance the story (unlike some graphic novels which are really just a text story with a panel to illustrate each bit of text -- but such panels are not connected and don't take advantage of the magic that the graphic novel can provide.
     Unfortunately, although I recommend you read it, I don't think you could use it, even in high school, without the book being strongly challenged by parents (and maybe even students).  This book has scenes of male rape (although it does not show the act itself, it shows the bully taking down his pants, the other bullies holding Hassan, and the blood afterwards.  Even a naïve high school student would have a hard time not visualizing what happens.  There is also extreme violence (slingshot takes out an eye, attempted suicide, etc.)
     I struggle with this.  The fact is, we live in a world that is sometimes horribly broken.  I do not think we do students a service by pretending it is not so.  At the same time, we live in a world full of heartbreaking beauty and moments of grace and hope.  I hope my daughters read this book someday -- but I hope they do so when they are in college. And I recognize that not everyone will want to read about that kind of pain. 
      And so, the upshot is, it is a powerful and painful story that really isn't suitable for teaching.  Sigh. 

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