The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Subtitled “Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe”, Lemmon’s book is an expanded version of an article she wrote for the Financial Times. Her goal was to travel around the world and interview female owners of business in war-torn, gender-divided countries. After interviewing women in Rwanda (which I would really like to read), Lemmon traveled to Afghanistan and met Kamila Sidiqi.

The story begins with the invasion of Kabul by the Taliban. Overnight, Kamila and her sisters are thrown out of school and forced to veil themselves completely behind the burqa. They cannot leave their home with a male relative acting as an escort and even that is incredibly dangerous.

Kamila and her family struggle under the Taliban’s brutal social and economic sanctions to continue putting food on the table for their large family. After convincing her older sister to teach her to sew, Kamila begins a tailoring company for other women out of her family’s living room. This the story of how her small enterprise became a thriving company.

For those of you who hate reading nonfiction and want to learn more about the Middle East, I would recommend this book it in a heartbeat. It’s incredibly easy to read and paints an important picture of the plight of women in Afghanistan.

For someone who has read several nonfiction books about the Middle East, it was slightly over simplified. Since there were no citations within the text, I took everything with a grain of salt. What can I say? I really like citations in the text for my nonfiction readers.

Much of the focus was placed on the time of the Taliban and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Americans was ignored. Kamila looks to the Americans as her salvation, which is perfectly understandable, but I would have liked to learn more about her life after the invasion. There are only a few times where Kamila refers to the rockets going off over her head.

Overall, though, I do think this is an interesting read. I can definitely appreciate this look at the life of a female and her family during the rule of the Taliban.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Lemmon, Hayle Tzemach. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. Print. 257 pgs. ISBN: 9780061732379. Source: Library.
Book Cover © HarperCollins. Retrieved: April 13, 2011.

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