Penguin Group (USA) Builds A School For Children In War-Torn Afghanistan, Partnering With The United Nations Refugee Agency In This Pioneering Venture

For the First Time Ever, Penguin Group (USA) Has Built a School, Grades One Through Six, Honoring American Booksellers, Librarians, and Educators Who Supported Khaled Hosseini's #1 New York Times-Bestselling and Internationally Acclaimed Novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns

New York, New York, November 19, 2008 . . . Penguin Group (USA), a member of the Penguin Group, one of the world's largest English-language consumer trade book publishers, is proud to announce that it has built a primary school in Afghanistan, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the United States Association for UNHCR. The school is located in Arababshirali, roughly 150 miles from Kabul, in Kunduz Province. The school, which recently opened its doors to 270 students, grades one through six, is a tribute to American booksellers, librarians, and educators who supported Khaled Hosseini's #1 New York Times–bestselling and internationally acclaimed novels, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, published by Riverhead Books, an award-winning and critically acclaimed imprint of Penguin Group (USA).

In 2001, while still a practicing internist, Khaled Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner.  Two years later, it was published in hardcover by Riverhead Books, and followed by a #1 New York Times–bestselling trade paperback edition a year later.  It has since become a critically acclaimed international bestseller, published in forty-eight countries, with more than 6.75 million copies shipped to date in the U.S. market alone.  It has also been credited with leading readers far and wide to a heightened consciousness about Afghanistan, its culture, and its people.

In 2006, Hosseini was honored by the UN Refugee Agency and named a U.S. envoy to the UNHCR. In this role, he traveled to war-torn villages in the northern region of his native Afghanistan in 2007. During this trip he witnessed firsthand the overwhelming desire of Afghan people to provide an education and a better future for their children. Now, in 2008, Penguin Group (USA) is proud to play a key role in turning that desire into a reality.

Susan Petersen Kennedy, President of Penguin Group (USA), commented: "Changing the world can sometimes start with a single act of kindness. Our hope is that this new school is one of those acts. We know that the children it serves will contribute to their world and ours, and we wanted to help provide a place where they can learn, grow, and dream. For us, education matters, books matter, and these children matter."

Mrs. Kennedy continued, "We are grateful to our author, Khaled Hosseini, and UNHCR for making this gift possible, and for inspiring us and enriching our view of the needs and struggles faced by families in Afghanistan. As an international publisher, Penguin Group is committed to making a difference in communities worldwide by embracing those differences that exist among us. It is often through the voices of our authors, such as Khaled Hosseini, and their books, that we discover the connections we have to each other."

Khaled Hosseini said, "Novels evoke universal human experiences. They are uniquely suited to create empathy and understanding between people of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Over the past few years, I have been humbled by the outpouring of empathy and compassion from my readers for the people of my homeland. It is a great honor to me when readers write me to say that they have found a personal connection to Afghanistan and the suffering of its people through my novels. To me, this school is the physical expression of that connection."

Ground was broken for the school earlier this year, and its construction provided much-needed employment for men in the village of Arababshirali. Now completed and open to students, the schoolhouse has six classrooms and is staffed by six teachers, four women and two men. Approximately 270 Afghan students, in grades one through six, now regularly attend classes. Despite anonymous threats demanding that they not be allowed to attend, girls make up a third of the enrollment. Before the school was completed, students were taught by teachers outside, often under shade trees or in tents that served as makeshift classrooms.

Mohammad Wazir, the head of Arababshirali's governing council, said, "We are very, very grateful to all the people in America who gave us our school. We will do our best to make sure that all of our children grow up to read and love books. The year has been difficult, but building the school has given us hope that things will get better and that our children will take pride in being home. The villagers worked for three months to build the school, and we will make sure it stands for the children of our children. It is for all of us. We are thankful."

According to Michael Coburn, Associate Director, USA for UNHCR, "With hundreds of children at primary-school age in the village, there was no school structure available for them to learn. In fact, the children attended classes either outdoors or in a destroyed primary school. The new primary school is an absolute blessing. UNHCR can now ensure the children have a proper shelter, infrastructure, and resources to receive an education, which is the essential tool to help build a better future for the children of Afghanistan. The whole village is extremely grateful."

Geoffrey Kloske, Vice President and Publisher, Riverhead Books, added, "Khaled Hosseini's books have brought the lives and concerns of the Afghan people vividly to life to American readers, booksellers, librarians, educators, and reviewers. We wanted to acknowledge and pay tribute to as many of these people as we could with our gift to UNHCR. We are sincerely grateful to Khaled Hosseini for inspiring us to turn our attention to a community in need halfway around the world. We are honored to be working so closely with Khaled and UNHCR to provide a more fertile learning environment for the children of Afghanistan, who may very well become our leaders of tomorrow."

More than 350 booksellers, librarians, and educators across the United States were recognized for their support of Hosseini's #1 New York Times–bestselling first novel, The Kite Runner, with personalized donation certificates that read "Some novels make a world of difference," each signed by Hosseini.

 

NOTE TO THE PRESS:

Khaled Hosseini is the internationally renowned author of the acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestsellers, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. Hosseini began writing The Kite Runner, in March 2001, while in medical practice. In 2003, The Kite Runner was published in hardcover by Riverhead Books, and was followed in 2004 by a #1 New York Times– bestselling trade paperback edition that was the top top-selling fiction trade paperback in the United States in 2007 and has been on the New York Times paperback fiction bestseller list for more than three and a half years. The Kite Runner is a true international bestseller, published in 48 countries, with more than 6.75 million copies shipped in the U.S. alone. His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, was published by Riverhead in hardcover in May 2007 and sold more copies in the U.S. than any other new adult hardcover published that year, spending 13 weeks at #1 on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list and has spent nearly 50 weeks on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestsellerlist to date. A Thousand Splendid Suns is published in 25 countries, and after only 18 months has shipped more than 2.3 million copies in the U.S. alone. The Riverhead trade paperback edition of A Thousand Splendid Suns goes on sale November 25, 2008.

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry, and his mother taught Farsi and history at a large high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Afghan Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris. They were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet army. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States. In September 1980, Hosseini's family moved to San Jose, California. He graduated from high school in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1988. The following year, he entered the University of California, San Diego's School of Medicine, where he earned a medical degree in 1993. He completed his residency at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Hosseini was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004. In 2006, he was named a U.S. envoy to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

 

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides protection and assistance to 33 million people around the world—mostly women and children—forced to flee their homes due to persecution and war. Since 2002, UNHCR has helped nearly 5 million Afghan refugees return to their villages of origin. The group's work in Afghanistan was recently highlighted when UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie traveled there to visit the organization's operation in the war-torn country.

 

The United States Association for UNHCR (USA for UNHCR) supports the UN Refugee Agency's humanitarian work to protect and assist refugees around the world. The organization provides Americans an opportunity to aid in the protection and relief of refugees in the care of UNHCR. We strive to meet the needs of the world's most vulnerable people, building support and awareness in the United States for UNHCR's lifesaving relief programs.

 

Penguin Group (USA) is the U.S. division of Penguin Group worldwide.  It is one of the most prestigious, award-winning, and critically acclaimed consumer trade book publishers in the world. A publishing leader, Penguin Group (USA)'s roster of award-winning, internationally bestselling authors includes Patricia Cornwell, Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Gilbert, Greg Mortenson, Eckhart Tolle, Junot Díaz, Zadie Smith, Kim Edwards, Ken Follett, Geraldine Brooks, Alan Greenspan, Al Gore, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, J. M. Coetzee, Steve Coll, Kathleen Norris, James McBride, Michael Pollan, Ron Chernow, the Dalai Lama, Toni Morrison, Nick Hornby, Terry McMillan, Sue Monk Kidd, Tyler Perry, Jan Karon, Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts, Sue Grafton, Harlan Coben, Daniel Silva, Robin Cook, Catherine Coulter, Clive Cussler, Eric Jerome Dickey, Helen Fielding, W. E. B. Griffin, Spencer Johnson, Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert B. Parker, John Sandford, Carol Shields, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, and Stuart Woods.

 

Riverhead Books is a distinguished and critically acclaimed imprint of Penguin Group (USA). It is home to many New York Times-bestselling and award-winning authors, including Khaled Hosseini, Junot Díaz, Kathleen Norris, James McBride, Anne Lamott, Dinaw Mengestu, and Chang-rae Lee, among others.

 

Penguin Group, one of the world's largest English-language trade book publishers, has established divisions and key market positions in the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, Canada, India, China, New Zealand, and Ireland. Penguin Group is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.

Penguin Group was the first international English-language trade publisher to establish offices in South Africa, India, and China. Penguin South Africa last year published two of the fastest-selling local fiction titles in the South African market in decades. Penguin India is the largest English-language trade publisher in the Asian subcontinent. And Penguin China, in a joint project with the Chongqing Publishing Group, introduced Penguin Classics in Chinese in 2008.

For more than sixty years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classics in the English-speaking world. Its library of more than 1,200 Penguin Classics titles speaks to contemporary readers by embracing excellence in scholarship, translation, and book design.

Penguin Group is also a global leader in children's publishing, home to such popular award-winning, bestselling authors as Laurie Halse Anderson, Frank Beddor, Judy Blume, Jan Brett, Eric Carle, Roald Dahl, Tomie dePaola, Sarah Dessen, John Green, Eric Hill, Anthony Horowitz, Brian Jacques, Mike Lupica, Richard Peck, and Patricia Polacco. Penguin is also the proud publisher of perennial favorites such as Beatrice Potter's Peter Rabbit, The Little Engine That Could, and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.

 

Contacts:
Penguin Group (USA):
Marilyn Ducksworth
(212) 366-2564
marilyn.ducksworth@us.penguingroup.com

Dave Zimmer
(212) 366-2687
david.zimmer@us.penguingroup.com

UNHCR:
Tim Irwin
(202) 243-7623
irwint@unhcr.org