A Bed of Red Flowers

In Search of My Afghanistan

A Bed of Red Flowers

A Bed of Red Flowers is more than the remarkable story of Nelofer Pazira’s difficult life in war-torn Afghanistan, her family’s sacrifices and escape, and her eventual triumph as a writer, teacher, journalist, and actress” (Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner).

Written with compassion, intelligence, and insight, A Bed of Red Flowers is a profoundly moving portrait of life under occupation and the unforgettable story of a family, a people and a country.

“The picnic of the red flower” is a traditional time of celebration for Afghans. One of Nelofer Pazira’s earliest memories is of people gathering in the countryside to admire the tulips and poppies carpeting the landscape. It is the mid-1970s, and her parents are building a future for themselves and their young children in the city of Kabul.

But when Nelofer is just five the Communists take power and her father, a respected doctor, is imprisoned along with thousands of other Afghans. The following year, the Russians invade Afghanistan, which becomes a police state and the center of a bloody conflict between the Soviet army and American-backed mujahidin fighters. A climate of violence and fear reigns.

For Nelofer, there is no choice but to grow up fast. At eleven, she and her friends throw stones at the Russian tanks that stir up dust and animosity in the streets of Kabul. As a teenager she joins a resistance group, hiding her gun from her parents. Her emotional refuge is her friendship with her classmate Dyana, with whom she shares a passion for poetry, dreams and a better life.

After a decade of war, Nelofer’s family escapes across the mountains to Pakistan and later to Canada, where she continues to write to Dyana. When her friend suddenly stops writing, Nelofer fears for Dyana’s life. With lyrical, narrative prose, A Bed of Red Flowers movingly tells Pazira’s haunting story, as well as Afghanistan’s story as a nation.
  • Free Press | 
  • 416 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743281331 | 
  • September 2005
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
A Bed of Red Flowers
By Nelofer Pazira
1. A Bed of Red Flowers begins with Nelofer Pazira's account of visiting her father, Habibullah, in prison when she was just four years old. He tells her: "I didn't raise you to cry on such a day." Discuss the author's relationship with her father. How does she feel about his political activism? How is she ultimately influenced by his beliefs?
2. Jamila, the author's mother, burns all the books in the house when her husband is suspected of being anti-government. What does this act symbolize to Nelofer, and what does it reveal about the Communist presence in Afghanistan?
3. How do the people of Afghanistan respond to the arrival of the Soviet army? What are some of their forms of passive resistance? Discuss some of the modes of active resistance that Nelofer and her friends from school engage in.
4. Nelofer's Uncle Asad and her father, Habibullah, disagree over the Afghan communist government. What are some of the consequences of political dissent in this era?
5. Discuss the role of the mujahidin -- the resistance to the Soviet occupation -- in A Bed of Red Flowers. How do they contribute to the dangerous conditions in Kabul and other strategically important cities? What are some of the daily dangers that Nelofer and her family endure at the hands of the mujahidin?
6. Who is Dyana, and what role does she play in Nelofer's childhood? How does their relationshi see more

About the Author

Nelofer Pazira
Photo Credit:

Nelofer Pazira

Nelofer Pazira is a journalist and filmmaker based in Toronto. She starred in the movie Kandahar and was featured in Return to Kandahar, which she also coproduced and codirected. She currently works for the Canadian Broadcasting Company's nightly newscast, The National. She has also recently set up a charity -- Dyana Afghan Women's Fund -- to provide education and skills training for women in the city of Kandahar.