“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.
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 relationship evolve over the course of their lives? What do Dyana's letters reveal about the changing conditions of life in Afghanistan? Why do you think these letters motivate the author to return to Afghanistan? 7. How does the legend of Malalai inspire Nelofer, and what does she symbolize to the resistance movement in Afghanistan? Discuss Malalai's role in the Battle of Maiwand between the British and the Afghans. 8. Describe some of the measures the Pazira family takes in their escape to Pakistan. Who accompanies them on their long journey? How do they finally make it to the border? What did you think of the hardships they encountered on the way? 9. What does Nelofer come to realize about the leadership of mujahidin when she arrives in Pakistan? What is the dress code she must follow as a Persian literature teacher at one of the mujahidin-run schools? Discuss some of the other restrictions on women forced by Muslim extremists. 10. Nelofer Pazira writes: "What the Taliban are doing is regarded by some as a part of everyday Afghan culture. There is a strong sense of unease about condemning their actions." What do you think explains the international reluctance to intervene in politically and socially repressive conditions in other countries? 11. What does the author encounter when she returns to Afghanistan to make the film, Kandahar? How does she feel about wearing a burqa? What does it protect her from, and what does it symbolize? How does the author feel about Afghanistan's liberation by the United States in the days after September 11? 12. Why does the author decide to travel to Russia? What does this trip enable her to understand about the Communist ideology and its role in her childhood in Afghanistan?
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.
"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. Written movingly, honestly and lyrically, it is the story of Afghanistan itself." -- Khaled Hosseini, bestselling author of The Kite Runner