University prepares for author’s arrival

Courtney Scrib

In what many hope is the beginning of a long-running tradition, the University welcomes the featured author of its One Book Program on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m. Dr. Khaled Hosseini, who wrote “The Kite Runner,” will speak about his book and life, as well as answer questions from audience members.

“The event offers a unique opportunity for students to hear and be able to question the author of a book that has touched the lives of so many people,” Tom Mogan, Director of Student Development, said.

Planning for Hosseini’s arrival began as far back as Dec. 2004. It was during that time that the One Book Program committee, which included students, faculty and staff members, first met to nominate possible book selections. After reviewing the nominations (and ironically enough, the responses from a Coffee Break question), the committee then chose three to four books that each member would be required to read over winter break. Upon returning in January, the committee discussed each work and ultimately decided on “The Kite Runner.”

Mogan, who began using “The Kite Runner” in his core humanities course last year, was encouraged by the response that the novel invoked among his students.

“It is amazing how students respond to the book,” Mogan said. “They described it as a page-turner and gripping. A lot of them talked about how they were able to identify with the characters.”

The book’s recently gained momentum among University students has not gone unnoticed by Mogan and One Book Program co-chairs Dr. Terry Nance, who is also the Vice President for Multicultural Affairs, and Joe Lucia, Falvey Library Director. For many students, winter break provided them with the chance and leisure time to read “The Kite Runner,” which was first introduced and given to the students in September.

“I found Kite Runner to be an intriguing novel,” freshman John Sonchack said. “It gave me a greater appreciation of Afghanistan culture, which I have often heard about but rarely appreciated.”

However, Villanova students are not the only people to have been touched by Hosseini’s work. Communities throughout the nation, including Fairfax County Public Library in Virginia and the local Lower Merion Library System, adopted “Runner” as the selected work for their reading programs.

Because of the word of mouth phenomenon, Hosseini’s debut novel eventually made its way onto the top best sellers list in the United States in 2004 and stayed there for more than a year. With over 1.5 billion (and counting) copies sold, it is hard to believe that only 50,000 copies of “The Kite Runner” were printed in its first year of publication.

Even more surprising is that at Hosseini’s first book signing, his total audience was comprised of just a single person. (Compare that to the 2,500 tickets for Hosseini’s appearance that Villanova sold in the first week alone.)

Originally, the venue for Hosseini’s speech was slated for the Villanova Room in the Connelly Center.

However, once it became obvious that more and more people were reading the book, the speech was moved to the Pavilion in order to accommodate for a larger audience. All over the community, including students from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia and reporters from nearby suburban newspapers, will be united to hear Hosseini speak about a novel that the author himself describes as a “human story.”

“[‘The Kite Runner’] is one of those classic works of fiction that speaks on so many different levels,” Mogan said.

Hosseini’s speech marks the first event of the University’s 8th Annual Literary Festival presented by the Department of English. Prior to the event, there will be a book signing held in Falvey Library from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Doors for Hosseini’s speech, which is free and open to the public, will open at 4:30 p.m.

“I’m looking forward to attending the seminar with the author to find out what elements behind the story are true, hear more about his experiences in Afghanistan and learn his point of view on some possible underlying messages in the book,” Sonchack said.

As an added bonus, the One Book Committee will also reveal its selected work for next year.