In preparation for the 2011 fall semester’s First-Year Read events, first-year students downloaded onto their iPads and read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.
Set in Afghanistan, A Thousand Splendid Suns recounts the experiences and emotions of two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila, whose lives become entangled with the history of recent wars in their country.
In reading this book, students were confronted with the political and social challenges the main characters experienced in their daily lives. They learned about the consequences of war and the struggles of being a woman without legal rights; they were introduced to the viewpoint of those who adhere to the Muslim faith and the dreams of those who sought a national identity defined by Afghanistan’s unique cultural heritage.
First-year students had a chance to talk about the themes and issues raised in the book during Fall Orientation, where they assembled into small discussion groups facilitated by specially trained faculty, staff and upperclassmen. Each discussion group became a forum for the first-year students to express their personal thoughts, reactions and interpretations of the book. Interest in A Thousand Splendid Suns was reinforced during the semester by conversations on Facebook, an ongoing blog, documentaries and films about Afghanistan, and an Afghan-themed meal offered in the dining hall.
The program culminated with Hosseini’s visit to Hood College on October 26, where he met and interacted with students informally throughout the day. That evening he participated in a formal interview with Kate Conway-Turner, Ph.D., provost and vice president of academic affairs, at an event in Hodson Auditorium, followed by a book signing.
The program was highly successful in that it united first-year students in a common experience, expanded their knowledge of the world and brought the entire campus community together as it prepared for and celebrated the author’s visit. A survey taken at the time indicated that students found Hosseini’s visit to campus an especially exciting and rewarding event.
- View A Thousand Splendid Suns blog.
- View photos from First-Year Read event.
- View Video.