A historical fiction that delves into the socio-political terrain of Afghanistan in the 1970s, The Carpet Weaver is a heartrending survival story. Kanishka Nurzada is in love with his bestfriend, Maihan. But he soon realizes that the land he calls home is one where divergence is met with stringent punishment.
Matters are made worse when his father is arrested for colluding with communists. To escape persecution, Kanishka and his family flee their home, hoping to make their way to the US, only to find that the path ahead is filled with fatal obstacles.
I have a soft spot for books set in Asia. It’s always enlightening to learn about different cultures, as written by the own voices authors. While conservativism and communal clashes are frequently found in a lot of Asian literature, you also get to see just how vibrant and diverse communities are. And that fills me with hope.
The Carpet Weaver paints a vivid picture of LGBTQ+ identities and what it takes to hold your ground in a society that is ready to eradicate even the tiniest instance of non-adherence.
Kanishka’s friendship with Maihan and Faiz is explored at length. It showcases how each of them reacts to the austere system in their own way and have an impact on each other till the very end. As a coming of age novel, the book highlights a crucial time in the lives of these teenagers, who are trying to make sense of their place in the world while meticulously navigating the expectations that their families have from them.
I didn’t particularly like Maihan’s character. He’d blow hot and cold towards Kanishka as per his convenience. And because a lot of the initial chapters focus on Kanishka and Maihan, Faiz sort of gets left out of the picture at times. You only get to see that there’s so much more to his character much later in the book, and I liked getting a glimpse of his motivations.
I was thoroughly engrossed in the story. Nemat Sadat does an incredible job of introducing the characters and making their struggles and dreams important to the reader.
The chapters after the halfway point become so heartbreaking. After everything that Kanishka had to endure, piling more suffering onto his fate seemed extremely cruel. But that is the plight of a lot of refugees and prisoners around the world. And the author explores these themes with tact, which made the narrative palatable.
On the whole, I’d highly recommend The Carpet Weaver to readers who enjoy gritty, historical tales of endurance. I’m so glad that I picked it up!