The Friends of the Pittsboro Memorial Library are doing their part to bridge the gaps between people of various cultures. In October 2004, they began featuring the national bestseller The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini as their Community Read. This is the first Afghan novel to be written in English, and it tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant.

The Kite Runner is one of those rare books that both touches hearts and also brings an important issue to the fore–understanding Afghanistan,” says Marjorie Hudson, president of the Friends group.

“It is a story of friendship and betrayal, fathers and sons, war and dislocation. It is a story about Afghan and Muslim immigration to this country, many of whom were war refugees–a story that has never been fully told because of the fears generated after 9/11. It contains the fierce history of 30 years of wars in Afghanistan.

It is also the story of a father and a son who can’t seem to connect and the struggle of the son who keeps trying,” says Hudson. “So there is much, much of topical interest to discuss.”

Hudson, who says The Kite Runner was chosen because of its timeliness and the increasing need for more understanding of Afghanistan, adds that the most special element of the novel is its emotional power.

“People read it and come and tell me about it with tears in their eyes. I’ve wanted people to read it so I gave it for Christmas presents. My stepdaughter wrote me a letter about it; my mother was very moved by it; people come up to me in grocery stores and say, ‘What an incredible book’,” she says. “It is just a very powerful, emotional story and it opens people’s eyes. I think my favorite line is in the very beginning, when a phone call comes from two continents away and a voice from the past says, ‘There is a way to be good again.’ A well-written book can touch your heart and also teach you something you need to know.”

In conjunction with the Community Read of The Kite Runner, an exhibit of photographs entitled The Afghan Folio: Documentary Photos of Luke Powell is on display through Feb. 28 at Pittsboro Memorial Library. The collection includes 32 dye-transfer prints of people and places in Afghanistan. Powell is a North Carolina native, and his photographs have been exhibited in more than 100 one-person shows throughout the United States and Canada, including at the Smithsonian.

The Chatham County Council on Aging and The Friends are also sponsoring “An Evening in Kabul Fundraising Dinner and Auction” on Saturday, Feb. 26. The event will be held at the Pittsboro Senior Center at 6:30 p.m., and Triangle restaurants and chefs will provide cuisine of the Middle East while special guests from the local Afghan community perform traditional music and teach attendees the Dance of the Attan, an Afghani victory dance.

Another important element of the Community Read is the involvement of Chatham County Middle School youth. Jennifer Gillis, a librarian and published author of nonfiction for school-age children, will lead a discussion of Deborah Ellis’ novels with middle school students on Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 5 p.m. in the Pittsboro library. Ellis’ books examine the lives of adolescents in Afghanistan and their experiences with war.

Other panel discussions include:

“Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us: Breaking Down Stereotypes after 9/11,” which will address the central question “How does reading good literature help break down our stereotypes about other human beings–racial, ethnic, religious and national?” Discussion leaders include Judy Hogan, published writer and former editor at Carolina Wrenn Press; Jaki Shelton Green, published poet and winner of the 2003 North Carolina Award, the state’s highest award for literature; Abdullateef Fisher, scholar of the Muslim religion. Fisher and Green are married and both are practicing Muslims. This event will be held at the library on Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

“Where is your heart on its pilgrimage through friendship and faith this year?” Discussion leader Janet Ray Edwards is a teacher and writer. The event begins at 7 p.m. on March 10 at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, 204 W. Salisbury St., Pittsboro.

The closing event, an author talk and signing with Khaled Hosseini will take place at Fearrington Barn on Saturday, April 2 at 11 a.m., with a silent auction of art from the exhibit The Kite and the Veil from 10-11 a.m.

“I think there’s a dire need for finding ways to connect people in community in our culture,” says Hudson, explaining the importance of reading a novel like The Kite Runner. “Our technology isolates us from true connection. Connection builds trust, and trust is the glue that allows us to work together to make things better,” she says.”Books tell stories that require personal involvement of the reader–and if you meet someone who has responded deeply to the same book, suddenly you are friends. You have shared an entire world, an emotional voyage. That’s the power of reading–it’s not just a cliche, it’s a living thing that is deeply part of humans.

“Language is how we explain the world to ourselves and others.”

For more information on these and other scheduled events for The Kite Runner, contact the Pittsboro Memorial Library at 542-3524 or visit . The library is located at 158 W. Street in Pittsboro