The Roses in My Carpets by Rukhsana Khan is a book I find myself thinking about, especially once the refugee crisis started unfolding across the world and my newsfeed began to be filled with images of children trekking across the wintery fields of Europe, or playing in the devastation of Syrian cities. The first line of the book is about an eight-year-old Afghan refugee boy’s recurring nightmare: “It’s always the same. The jets scream overhead.”
The planes he dreams about are the ones that bombed his village and killed his father. The unnamed protagonist has had to grow up fast and finds work as a carpet weaver to feed his mother and sister. Some readers may find this recounting of the day-in-the-life of a young child who loses his father and his country, is too grim for kids, but I like this book for its unflinching, unsentimental look at a reality that many children across the world are living through. Yet, what unfolds is much more than a story of pain and loss. The young boy, who remains unnamed, finds beauty in the colors and designs he weaves, and makes sure that there are “plenty of roses” in his carpets.
The story spoke to me about the power of art and beauty as a way to resist the chaos that the world throws our way. I met the author many years ago, at a conference in Chicago – and she was a wonderful, generous, laughing woman—and perhaps that is another reason why I love this book.