While The Kite Runner movie is now captivating audiences throughout the country—much as the book did four years ago—with its enthralling tale of “family, forgiveness, and friendship” and the promise that indeed “there is a way to be good again,” very little has been written critiquing this work and its prominent role in the New Orientalist narrative of the Islamic Middle East.
Iranian literature specialist Dr. Fatemeh Keshavarz (Washington University in St. Louis) has classified this book as one of the recent works that she argues constitute a "New Orientalist" narrative in her book Jasmine and Stars: Reading More than Lolita in Tehran. Dr. Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University also has written about New Orientalism and expatriates who serve as “native informers” or “comprador intellectuals” in respect to the Middle East.
Keshavarz broadly characterizes the New Orientalist works thusly:
Thematically, they stay focused on the public phobia [of Islam and the Islamic world]: blind faith and cruelty, political underdevelopment, and women's social and sexual repression. They provide a mix of fear and intrigue—the basis for a blank check for the use of force in the region and Western self-affirmation. Perhaps not all the authors intend to sound the trumpet of war. But the divided, black-and-white world they hold before the reader leaves little room for anything other than surrender to the inevitability of conflict between the West and the Middle East.
While The Kite Runner is perhaps less obvious in its demonization of the Muslim world and glorification of the Western world—what Keshavarz terms the "Islamization of Evil" and the "Westernization of Goodness"—than books like Reading Lolita in Tehran, these themes nevertheless clearly permeate the entire novel. While seemingly just a captivating story of Amir and his redemption through the heroic rescue of his childhood friend Hassan’s son, Sohrab, the entire plot is imbued with noxious stereotypes about Islam and the Islamic world. This story, read in isolation, may indeed just be inspiring and heart-warming, but the significance of its underlying message in the current geopolitical context cannot be ignored.