Media Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748
SAN JOSE, CA – Best-selling Afghan-American novelist Khaled Hosseini is the next recipient of the John Steinbeck Award: In the Souls of the People.
Join the The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies for a special evening with the author at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 in the SJSU Student Union. Hosseini will sit down for an on-stage conversation with KGO Radio Host Pat Thurston. Tickets are on sale now at Eventbrite and the SJSU Event Center Box Office.
“I am greatly honored to be given an award named after John Steinbeck, not only an icon of American literature but an unrelenting advocate for social justice who so richly gave voice to the poor and disenfranchised,” Hosseini said. “Both as a person and a writer, I count myself among the millions on whose social consciousness Steinbeck has made such an indelible impact.”
The Steinbeck Award
Authorized by the Steinbeck estate, the Steinbeck Award is presented to artists and activists whose works exemplify the spirit of Steinbeck’s social engagement.
Previous recipients include Joan Baez, Ken Burns, Dolores Huerta, Garrison Keillor, Rachel Maddow, John Mellencamp, Arthur Miller, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Bruce Springsteen and Studs Terkel.
“Like John Steinbeck, Hosseini has created powerful portrayals of those who are disconnected and dispossessed. Amir and Hassan, Mariam and Laila, Abdullah and Pari–those characters are well drawn and deeply felt,” said Ted Cady, Steinbeck Center board member.
Hosseini is the author of three novels: “The Kite Runner” (2003), “A Thousand Splendid Suns” (2007) and “And the Mountains Echoed” (2013). Inspired by Steinbeck, Hosseini creates characters tested by political and economic turmoil of historic proportions. In Hosseini’s case, it’s the wars that have ravaged his native Afghanistan for far too long.
Ties to San Jose State
Hosseini’s ties to San Jose State run deep. He was introduced to “The Grapes of Wrath” as an Independence High School student. His teacher, Janet Sanchez, ’73 English, will be in attendance when he accepts the Steinbeck Award. She mentored student teachers at SJSU for many years.
Hosseini went on to attend Santa Clara University and the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, but SJSU’s role in providing opportunity to many first-generation college students stuck with him. The main character in “The Kite Runner” attends SJSU.
Professor of Communication Studies Matthew Spangler’s adaption of the novel for the stage won five San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards in 2009. The play is on tour in the United Kingdom. The novel was the fall 2006 selection for the SJSU Reading Program.
“This tremendously powerful book raises questions about the capacity of human beings to destroy and redeem lives, and the actions that lead to both,” Professor Elba Maldonado-Colon said.
A Line of Teachers
At a private reception before the Steinbeck Award event, President Mohammad Qayoumi’s wife, Najia Karim, will present Hosseini with her poem, “The Wrath of Grapes.” Hosseini’s mother was one of Karim’s teachers when she was growing up in Afghanistan.
President Mohammad Qayoumi will formally introduce Hosseini to the audience. Both men have been active in efforts to aid their homeland. The Khaled Hosseini Foundation provides humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan by working with the United Nations Refugee Agency to build shelters for families.
“I’ve tried through the foundation to reach those people I’ve been writing about,” Hosseini said in a video on the foundation’s website. “I’ve chronicled their sufferings and their misfortunes…Those are real people and I’ve benefited from their stories so I have found it just and fitting that I should do something for them as well.”
San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.