"And the Mountains Echoed" by Khaled Hosseini, have you heard of it?
If your answer is "No," then you have either been in a coma or off the grid. Every major publication, media outlet, literary site, bookstore and online vendor has written about Khaled's third and much anticipated novel. I have to agree with them, it is a must read with rich characters and exotic setting -- a multi-generation saga which leaves you wanting wanting more. "So, what is left to say?" I pondered this question when I was listening to the audiobook of my friend and fellow Afghan American's latest fiction best seller. Yup! I said, “listening” not “reading.” You see, I walk for exercise so I always have a book or two loaded on my iPhone to keep me company. I love books read by the author, especially if I know them.
In this audio book, Khaled only reads two chapters; Iranian actors Navid Negahban and Oscar nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo skillfully read the rest of the story. The audio book is well directed with haunting Middle Eastern inspired music, which creates a charming ambiance for the listener. I must admit that the actors’ mispronunciation of Afghan names and Dari words annoyed me.
I have known Khaled since the early 80's, long before it was fashionable to be Afghan. As newly arrived refugees, cut off from our roots, living in low-income neighborhoods of San Jose, our families flocked together for familiarity and support. Remembering when our families barely had enough money to eat, Khaled’s success is a testament to achieving "the American dream" through hard work, and in his case exceptional talent. Khaled makes me proud by using his celebrity to highlight important issues plaguing our world today. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation (TKHF), brainchild of Khaled's lovely wife Roya, works with UNHCR to build shelters for refugee families who are still suffering. TKHF also provides support to organizations focused on education, and healthcare for women and children of Afghanistan. For many years, TKHF has been a generous supporter of my non-profit, Afghan Friends Network.
To bring a little personal touch to this post, I am pleased that Khaled was able to take time out of his busy month to "chime" in, as he puts it, and share his thoughts about audio books and food…
Conversation with Khaled Hosseini, the author of "And the Mountains Echoed."
Humaira: Do you like listening to audio books?
Khaled: My idea of a great audio book is one that draws you into the story world the way a campfire story can. I love listening to audio books when I am on long car drives. I love how I can lose myself in the narration. I do like it when authors read their own work as it adds a dimension of intimacy between author and listener. A good example was Michael J Fox's narration of his struggles with Parkinson's disease and Alice Sebold's narration of her book 'Lucky' in which she discusses with painful candor how she survived a rape.
Humaira: Did you have a vision for the audio book of "And the Mountains Echoed?" Were you involved in selecting the actors who read the book?
Khaled: As for the audio of my new book the publisher selected the readers. I read two of the chapters. Given the multi-perspective structure of the novel, having multiple readers seemed to me a good choice as well.
Humaira: Since my blog is about Afghan culture and food, I have to ask about your favorite Afghan food.
Khaled: My favorite Afghan dish is turnip stew (shalgham with rice). I like it tinged with ginger and I love to squeeze a little sour orange on it.
Humaira: Who is the cook in your house you, Roya jan or is it a team effort?
Khaled: Roya cooks. I grill! I can't cook Afghan food but she is great at it.
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