Chapter Five


Flanked by his obeying friends, he walked the neighborhood like a Khan strolling through his land with his eager-to-please entourage.

This is an allusion to historical supreme rulers in central Asia, such as Genghis Khan and his successors.

Chapter Eleven

Pop Culture

”He’s like Six-Million-Dollar Man now,” she always said to me, laughing toothlessly. “Remember Six-Million-Dollar Man, Amir?” Then Mr. Nguyen would scowl like Lee Majors, pretend he was running in slow motion.

This is an allusion to a TV show in the 1970s about a man who had body parts replaced with machine parts, giving him superhuman abilities. In the show, actor Lee Majors played the role of the Six Million Dollar Man.

Chapter Twelve


It turned out that, like Satan, cancer had many names.

This is an allusion to the supernatural embodiment of evil in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam who has various names, including Satan, the Devil, and Lucifer.

Chapter Thirteen


[“]Your khala’s medical charts are like the works of Rumi: They come in volumes.”

This is an allusion to Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet and religious mystic.

Chapter Fourteen


It was the general who had given our cocker spaniel his name, Farsi for “Plato,” because, he said, if you looked hard enough and long enough into the dog’s filmy black eyes, you’d swear he was thinking wise thoughts.

This is an allusion to Plato, a renowned philosopher of ancient Greece.

Chapter Nineteen


On his head, he wore a brown pakol, tilted slightly to one side, like the Tajik hero Ahmad Shah Massoud—referred to by Tajiks as “the Lion of Panjsher.”

This is an allusion to Ahmad Shah Massoud, a political and guerrilla resistance leader against the Soviets when they invaded and occupied Afghanistan.

Chapter Twenty-One


The hem of his loose shirt fluttered in the breeze, his arms spread like those of Jesus on the cross.

This is an allusion to Jesus Christ, a first-century Jewish preacher who Christians believe was the Son of God.

Pop Culture

When he faced our section, I saw he was wearing dark round sunglasses like the ones John Lennon wore.

This is an allusion to John Lennon, a member of the rock group The Beatles.

Chapter Twenty-Two

Pop Culture

The door opened and the two armed men returned, between them the tall Talib in white, still wearing his John Lennon glasses, looking like some broad-shouldered, New Age mystic guru.

This quote contains two allusions: The term “New Age mystic guru” is an allusion to a spiritual and social movement beginning in the 1970s that focused on personal transformation in order to bring a “New Age” of love and light to the world, and John Lennon was a member of the rock group The Beatles.

Pop Culture

He has gel in his hair and a Clark Gable mustache above his thick lips.

This is an allusion to Clark Gable, a Hollywood movie star in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s.

Literary/Pop Culture

The sound of my ribs snapping like the tree branches Hassan and I used to break to swordfight like Sinbad in those old movies.

This is an allusion to Sinbad the Sailor, a heroic character in one of the stories in Arabian Nights (from the Persian One Thousand and One Nights); many movies were made about the character in the 1900s.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Pop Culture

[“]You will lose some weight and you will be talking like Al Pacino from the first Godfather movie for a little while.”

This is an allusion to actor Al Pacino, whose character in the 1972 movie The Godfather is beaten up.

Chapter Twenty-Four

Literary/Pop Culture

A Les Misérables poster was nailed to the wall behind Andrews next to a topographical map of the U.S.

This is an allusion to Les Misérables, Victor Hugo’s classic French novel that has been turned into a musical play and a film.


I felt like Jean Valjean sitting across from Javert.

This is an allusion to two characters in Victor Hugo’s novel Les Misérables: Jean Valjean, a man who goes to prison for stealing bread to feed his poor family, and Javert, the police inspector who pursues Jean Valjean throughout the story.


He pressed his hands palm to palm, as if he were kneeling before the Virgin Mary.

This is an allusion to Mary of Nazareth, who Christians believe was the virgin mother of Jesus Christ.

Chapter Twenty-Five

Pop Culture

He had a crew cut and a T-shirt that read THE ROCK RULES in bold block letters.

This is an allusion to actor and wrestler Dwayne Johnson, whose nickname is “The Rock.”