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A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Teacher Guide by Kristy Littlehale

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Student Activities for A Thousand Splendid Suns Include:

After 9/11, most Americans could name one thing they knew about Afghanistan: the Taliban. The Taliban came into power in Afghanistan in 1996, and they remained in power until 2001. What many people don’t realize, however, is that Afghanistan was not always ruled by extremists; in fact, they were once a free people with a constitution, and the women had rights equal to those of men. Once Osama bin Laden and the Taliban took over, much of that went away. Khaled Hosseini recaptures the beauty of Afghanistan, and in particular the city of Kabul, in his novel A Thousand Splendid Suns. He follows the journey of two young women who are forced into oppressed lives, yet he highlights their strength and resilience throughout their ordeals: a reminder of the spirit of the women of Afghanistan, in spite of those who try to strip them of their dignity. Through Mariam and Laila’s stories, Hosseini illuminates important themes such as the rights of women, hope, the importance of sacrifice, and the importance of family.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Women Under the Taliban

A Thousand Splendid Suns traces the journeys of two young women throughout a series of important time periods for Afghanistan: the fall of the Shah monarchy; the rise and fall of Mohammed Daoud’s republic; the Soviet intervention and subsequent war with Mujahideen forces; the fall of Soviet-backed President Mohammed Najibullah; and the rise of the Taliban. Students will no doubt be familiar with the oppression of women in Afghanistan.

Since A Thousand Splendid Suns continues much of the same ideas that are presented in Hosseini’s first novel, The Kite Runner, a great resource that can be utilized for teaching both novels is distributed by Amnesty International.

In Appendix 4 of the above guide, the rules for women set by the Taliban are listed. Some of the more surprising ones for students include:

In addition, many Taliban rules apply to both sexes, including: no music, TV, or movies; men may not shave their beards; no internet; no dancing at weddings; and no clapping at sporting events. An interesting way to introduce the shock value of these rules is to have students keep a log for homework of what they do throughout the day, from breakfast until bedtime. Have students come in and share some of the things they do in a day. Then, hand them the list of Taliban rules and ask students to examine how many of these rules they violated in just one day! Have students discuss questions such as:


Current Women’s Rights in Afghanistan

Many students will wonder if the conditions for women have improved under the governments instituted after the fall of the Taliban. The truth is, it’s complicated. According to an article published by Al Jazeera in July 2015, 90% of women in Afghanistan are still facing abuse, violence, or forced marriages. According to the Trust in Education Foundation, 85% of women in Afghanistan are illiterate, and the percentage of women who die in childbirth is high. According to a CNN report from April 2015, women’s rights activists are being actively targeted and murdered. While the country implemented the EVAW law in 2009 (Elimination of Violence against Women), in 2013, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan released a report showing a 20% increase in murders of women.

Clearly, the fight for equal rights and treatment of women still has a ways to go in Afghanistan. Students might be inspired by reading the story of Malala Yousafzai, who after several awards for her activism in promoting girls’ rights to attend school in Pakistan, was shot in an assassination attempt carried out by the Taliban in 2012. She won the Nobel Peace Prize at age 17 in 2014, making her the youngest Nobel Prize winner. Malala continues to advocate for girls’ education, most recently opening a school on the border of Syria for teenage Syrian refugee girls. Her story and links to the documentary made about her life and work can be found at: www.malala.org.

Essential Questions for A Thousand Splendid Suns

  1. What motivates people to take action and make changes in their lives?
  2. What impact do war and violence have on the people who live through it?
  3. How can hope serve as an important tool for survival?
  4. Is family always defined by blood? Why or why not?
  5. What are some ways that women can assert their strength in an oppressive society?
  6. How much do parents influence their children’s ideas about the world around them?
  7. What is sacrifice? What are some reason why people make sacrifices?

A Thousand Splendid Suns Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

A Thousand Splendid Suns Summary


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and helps students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example A Thousand Splendid Suns Plot Diagram

Exposition

Mariam is a harami, a bastard, the product of her mother Nana’s affair with wealthy businessman Jalil. Mariam loves Jalil, but on her 15th birthday, he refuses to take her to Herat to one of his cinemas. She waits outside of his house all night, and discovers that he is hiding inside. Upon her return, she finds that Nana has hung herself. Jalil’s wives marry Mariam off to a shoemaker named Rasheed, and Rasheed takes Mariam away to live in Kabul.


Conflict

At first, Mariam is nervous, but content in her marriage to Rasheed. He makes her wear a burqa, but he’s nice to her otherwise. Then, Mariam can’t carry a child. Rasheed begins to physically abuse Mariam and their marriage becomes a nightmare for Mariam.


Rising Action

A girl named Laila lives near Rasheed and Mariam. Laila’s brothers are off fighting with the Mujahideen, and her mother, Mammy, suffers from bouts of depression. Her father is a book-learning man, and places great importance on Laila getting her education. After Laila’s brothers are killed and her best friend Tariq’s family flee, her parents are killed in a bombing of their house. Rasheed rescues Laila from the rubble. Laila is pregnant at 14 with Tariq’s child and agrees to marry Rasheed for safety.


Climax

Mariam and Laila’s relationship is strained at first because Mariam is jealous of Rasheed’s affections for Laila. She is also jealous of Laila’s daughter Aziza. However, they soon become friends and plot to flee together. They are caught, brought home, and Rasheed savagely beats them. After Laila gives birth to Rasheed’s son Zalmai, she discovers that Tariq is still alive. Mariam kills Rasheed with a shovel as he strangles Laila.


Falling Action

Laila, Tariq, and Zalmai recover Aziza from the orphanage where Rasheed had sent her, and Mariam turns herself in for Rasheed’s murder. She does this so that Laila, Tariq, and the children can escape from Afghanistan. Mariam is executed in Ghazi Stadium in front of thousands of people.


Resolution

Tariq works in a hotel in Muree. After the fall of the Taliban, Laila feels pulled to return to Kabul, but she wants to stop in Herat first. She meets Mullah Faizullah’s son Hamza, who takes her to the kolba where Mariam grew up. He gives her a box that Jalil tried to deliver to Mariam years before, with an apology note, a copy of Pinocchio, and Mariam’s inheritance money. Laila uses the money for the orphanage in Kabul, and she is pregnant again. If it’s a girl, she will name the baby Mariam.


A Thousand Splendid Suns Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That Image Attributions: Rubble (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pasa/13210615225/) - pasa47 - License: Attribution (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/) EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Mariam is a harami, a bastard, the product of her mother Nana’s affair with wealthy businessman Jalil. Mariam loves Jalil, but on her 15th birthday, he refuses to take her to Herat to one of his cinemas. She waits outside of his house all night, and discovers that he is hiding inside. Upon her return, she finds that Nana has hung herself. Jalil’s wives marry Mariam off to a shoemaker named Rasheed, and Rasheed takes Mariam away to live in Kabul. At first, Mariam is nervous but content in her marriage to Rasheed. He makes her wear a burqa, but he’s nice to her otherwise. Then, Mariam can’t carry a child. Rasheed begins to physically abuse Mariam and their marriage becomes a nightmare for Mariam. A girl named Laila lives near Rasheed and Mariam.. Laila’s brothers are off fighting with the Mujahedin, and her mother, Mammy, suffers from bouts of depression. Her father is a book-learning man, and places great importance on Laila getting her education. After Laila’s brothers are killed and her best friend Tariq’s family flee, her parents are killed in a bombing of their house. Rasheed rescues Laila from the rubble. Laila is pregnant at 14 with Tariq’s child and agrees to marry Rasheed for safety. Mariam and Laila’s relationship is strained at first because Mariam is jealous of Rasheed’s affections for Laila. She is also jealous of Laila’s daughter Aziza. However, they soon become friends and plot to flee together. They are caught, brought home, and Rasheed savagely beats them. After Laila gives birth to Rasheed’s son Zalmai, she discovers that Tariq is still alive. Mariam kills Rasheed with a shovel as he strangles Laila. Laila, Tariq, and Zalmai recover Aziza from the orphanage where Rasheed had sent her, and Mariam turns herself in for Rasheed’s murder. She does this so that Laila, Tariq, and the children can escape from Afghanistan. Mariam is executed in Ghazi Stadium in front of thousands of people. Tariq works in a hotel in Muree. After the fall of the Taliban, Laila feels pulled to return to Kabul, but she wants to stop in Herat first. She meets Mullah Faizullah’s son Hamza, who takes her to the kolba where Mariam grew up. He gives her a box that Jalil tried to deliver to Mariam years before, with an apology note, a copy of Pinocchio, and Mariam’s inheritance money. Laila uses the money for the orphanage in Kabul, and she is pregnant again. If it’s a girl, she will name the baby Mariam.