A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan by Nelofer Pazira (Random House Canada), 408 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Nelofer Pazira is best known for her starring role in the film Kandahar, a fictionalized version of her struggle to find the childhood best friend she'd left behind when she fled war-torn Afghanistan. Now a renowned Canadian journalist, she brings us her newest offering in the form of a heartbreaking memoir.
We meet Pazira as a curious child living a comfortable life with her family in mid-1970s Kabul. The future looks bright until the Communists take power and her father is arrested for expressing his opposition in front of the wrong person. After his release, the Soviets invade, and a bloody battle between the invading army and the American-backed mujahedeen ensues. For the next decade, the family refuse to abandon their home and survive increasingly horrid conditions.
Inspired by her father's political fervour, Pazira becomes a tenacious 11-year-old who throws stones at Soviet tanks, hides books beneath her mattress that could bring about her certain execution and buries guns in the backyard where she once buried beloved childhood pets. It's only after her family flees to Pakistan, aided by a seemingly fearless 18-year-old female smuggler, that Pazira learns the mujahedeen resistance fighters whom she once passionately aligned herself with include many who would deny women education and basic freedoms.
A Bed Of Red Flowers is not merely a remarkable memoir of one family's struggle; it's also a succinct account of Afghanistan's political history. Within these 400 suspenseful pages lies a concise retelling of the complexities and futility of war in a country constantly used as a battleground for other people's ideologies. Pazira shows the reader the frustration of a diverse culture in which people have always had to choose between lack of safety and lack of sovereignty.
This book is a victory, bringing us a truth banned or distorted by most with the power to speak about it. An enriching and heartrending read.
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