Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 4, 1965, and is the oldest of five children. When Hosseini was growing up, Kabul was a cosmopolitan city. Western culture, including movies and literature, mixed with Afghan traditions. Lavish parties were normal at the Hosseini family’s home in the upper-middle class neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan. Hosseini’s father served as a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry, and his mother taught Farsi and history at a local high school for girls. Then, in 1970, the Foreign Ministry sent his father to Iran. By this time, Khaled Hosseini was already reading Persian poetry as well as American novels, and he began writing his own short stories.
Repeated moves marked the next decade of the Hosseini family’s life. They returned to Kabul in 1973, the year Mohammad Daoud Khan, overthrew his cousin, Zahir Shah, the Afghan King, in a coup d’etat. The Afghan Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris in 1976. Though they hoped to return to Afghanistan in 1980, that was not possible because of a military invasion by the Soviet Union. Instead, the Hosseinis moved to San Jose, California after they were granted political asylum in the United States. Khaled Hosseini went on to graduate from high school in 1984 and attended Santa Clara University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Biology in 1988. In 1993, he earned his Medical degree from University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and in 1996 he completed his medical residency at Cedars-Sinai medical Center in Los Angeles.
While Hosseini has said before that his first novel, The Kite Runner, is largely fictional, he acknowledges that the Afghanistan he knew as a child inspired it. Although the period of adjustment passed and Hosseini became a successful practicing doctor in 1996, he felt deeply influenced by what he recalled of his homeland, and he began writing The Kite Runner in March 2001. Two years later, in the midst of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Riverhead Books published the book. The Kite Runner became an international bestseller, with more than eight million copies in print. It also received numerous book awards, including the Boeke Prize, the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award, and the Literature to Life Award. In 2007, it was made into a feature film. In May 2007, Khaled Hosseini published his second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which also became a bestseller.
Khaled Hosseini’s literature also changed his personal life. His efforts to bring attention to the plight of refugees earned him the Humanitarian Award from the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2006, and he became a Goodwill Ambassador to the organization. It was during a 2007 trip as an envoy that he was inspired to start his own non-profit group. He created the Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which funds projects to empower vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, such as women and children. Today, Khaled Hosseini writes full-time. He continues to live in Northern California with his wife, Roya, and their two children.