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About the Author

Image credit: Courtesy of Serpent's Tail Press

Works by Adam Klein

Associated Works

Men on Men 5: Best New Gay Fiction (1994) — Contributor — 186 copies
Best American Gay Fiction 1996 (1996) — Contributor — 117 copies
Vital Signs: Essential AIDS Fiction (2007) — Contributor — 19 copies


Common Knowledge

Country (for map)
Coral Gables, Florida, USA
Places of residence
San Francisco, California, USA
New York, USA
San Francisco State University
Awards and honors
Lambda Small Press Award



The Gifts of The State: New Afghan Writing edited by Adam Klein is a collection of short stories from the the writing workshop Klein ran in Kabul. Klein is the author of Tiny Ladies and the short story collection The Medicine Burns. He earned his MA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and his MFA from The New School. Klein was a Peace Corps volunteer in Bangladesh, Fulbright lecturer in India, and is currently an assistant professor of English at the American University of Afghanistan.

This collection of short stories represents the new, younger Afghan population. Those who remember the war with the Soviets, or at least stories of the war, the rise of the Taliban, and the American invasion. These stories bring together many aspects of Afghan life and seem to reflect on the one thing that has been missing from these people’s lives: Peace. There has been some form of turmoil in the country since the 1970s. Like most other people, Afghans just wish to be left alone.

The stories show how wearing jeans can produce a huge public argument. Villagers, in one story, believe that Soviet’s had attacked America on 9/11 because America and the Soviet Union have always been fighting each other. What possible effect would 9/11 have on Afghanistan asks one child. “The Taste of Cake” shows the brutality and depravity of those who hold power. “Hard Boiled” is an interesting story of a man who dresses as a member of the Taliban, but runs an illegal comic book store. Since there are no movies or music in Taliban run Afghanistan, comics provide some sort of an escape. The writer pictures himself a bit of a Mike Hammer fan and similarly falls for a woman needing assistance.

The writing is very good in all the stories and the writers’ command of English is also impressive. It is not so much the writing that makes this book great, but the first hand insight into a country that is still a mystery to most Americans. I would venture to say that most Americans only know Afghanistan for the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, and mountain bunkers. The Gifts of the State gives a personal look into the country and the people. It is this intimate look at the culture that makes this a great book. The main limiting factor is that the students are attending an American school where English a requirement to attend. I again would make a guess that most of these students come from the privileged class of Afghanistan. With that being said, I will give the benefit of the doubt to the writer’s perspective and their vision; it is the best look into the country that we have.
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evil_cyclist | 3 other reviews | Mar 16, 2020 |
"The stories are often heartbreaking, not always about war, but informed by the daily experience of the writers."
read more: http://likeiamfeasting.blogspot.gr/2014/10/gifts-of-state-ed-adam-klein.html
mongoosenamedt | 3 other reviews | Oct 25, 2014 |
The Gifts of the State was released in early December, but I just received my digital review copy a week ago. From the moment I began reading, I knew I'd been lucky enough to come upon a unique, engaging title that I was eager to share with others.

The editor, Adam Klein, ran English-language writing groups in Kabul for Afghans over a period of several years, and the short stories in this collection come out of that workshop. He undertook this project "to gather from a few aspiring writers the larger possibility for voices in a country too easily collectivized by frontline reports, historians who make Afghans seem like undefeatable warriors incapable of love, humor, heresy, let alone creating peaceful homes of democratic assembly."

Most Afghans who speak English speak it as a third (or fourth or...) language, and Klein admits to spending a great deal of one-on-one time with the authors editing for grammar and wrestling with style. I was worried at first that this might affect the quality and variety of the finished pieces, but I was delighted to find that the voices varied significantly from one story to the next.

Given the recent history of Afghanistan, most of these stories have war as a background, but the number and complexities of these wars will be unfamiliar to many English-language readers: the revolution that ended the Afghan monarchy, the Soviet invasion, the battles between socialists and mujahadin, the triumph of the Taliban, and the more recent U.S. invasion. For the past half-century, Afghan life has demanded an ability to fit in among the current power group without developing a place in that group that would make death inevitable with the next change in political fortunes. We see many different characters negotiating this difficult "being, but not being"—and sometimes paying a high price when their efforts are unsuccessful. While all the pieces in this collection are fiction, they have the ring of painful truth.

Interestingly, many of the writers—both male and female—chose to write from the perspective of the other gender. From my outside perspective, I would have anticipated that this would appeal to women writers, but I lacked the imagination to see how important it might be to male writers to attempt to see the world through female experience. This is only one of the many ways in which this collection both confirms and confounds expectations. American readers will find situations and characters that seem familiar, but even more that break open our assumptions about life in the region.

You can read this collection in an evening, but the stories will stay with you for much longer.
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Sarah-Hope | 3 other reviews | Feb 13, 2014 |
Adam Klein has put together an incredibly interesting collection of stories. They were written by young Afghanis who attended Klein’s writing workshop in Kabul. The stories depict moments of the lives of these young people, both real and imagined. They write of traditional blood debts, where a very young girl is given to an older man in marriage after a member of her family kills a member of his family accidentally. They write about life in a city under the Taliban where books are banned, but one young man, who himself is inspired by Micky Spillane rents comics to children and romances to ladies from his illicit book shop. They write about romance and love, and exile from their own country. They also write about the unimaginable brutality and horror of life in their own country.

The stories themselves are written well. Some of them flow better than others, some of them appeal more than others, and some of them are more forgettable than others. But this is true of all short story collections. What I will remember about this collection is the stories that it tells.
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judylou | 3 other reviews | Jan 20, 2014 |



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