Home > About Us > UNHCR People > Goodwill Ambassadors > Khaled Hosseini > Khaled Hosseini Biography

Khaled Hosseini Biography

Khaled Hosseini was born in the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, in 1965. His father was a diplomat and his mother taught Farsi and history. In 1976, his father was posted to France and he and his family were in Paris when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in late 1979. The Hosseini family was granted political asylum in the United States and, in September 1980, moved to San Jose, California.

After high school, Hosseini studied biology at Santa Clara University, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in 1988. The following year he enrolled at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, emerging with a medical degree in 1993. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles in 1996 and was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004.

In March 2001, Hosseini began writing his first novel, "The Kite Runner," which was set in his native Kabul. Published in 2003, the book became an international bestseller, selling in at least 70 countries and spending more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. It tells the story of Amir, a young boy in Kabul, whose closest friend is Hassan, his father's young Hazara servant. The story is set against a backdrop of tumultuous events, from the fall of Afghanistan's monarchy through the Soviet military intervention to the exodus of refugees to Pakistan and Iran, and the harsh rule of the Taliban regime. A film based on the book was released in 2007.

In May 2007, his second novel, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, remaining in that spot for 15 weeks. The book spans a period of more than 40 years in Afghanistan, from the 1960s to 2003, focusing on two Afghan women, Mariam and Laila. Mariam suffers from the stigma of being illegitimate and the abuse she faces throughout her marriage. Laila, born a generation later, is comparatively privileged during her youth. Their lives intersect when Laila is forced to accept a marriage proposal from Rasheed, Mariam's husband.

Hosseini's third novel, "And the Mountains Echoed," was published in 2013. It tells of the relationship between Abdullah, aged 10, and his three-year-old sister, Pari, and their father's decision to sell her to a childless couple in Kabul, an event that ties the various narratives together. The book takes readers to the refugee camps in Pakistan and portrays some of the challenges facing refugee returnees to Afghanistan.

Hosseini first returned to Afghanistan in 2003, and in 2007 he returned with UNHCR. Going back with the refugee agency, he said he felt like a tourist and admitted to sometimes suffering from survivor's guilt for having been able to leave the country before the descent into chaos. But the trip was a very valuable one for him.

He was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2013. He also heads an eponymous organization, The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which partners with UNHCR to build shelters for refugee families. It also provides economic opportunities, education and health care for vulnerable women and children in Afghanistan. He lives in northern California with his wife and two children.