Debbie's World of Books
My book reviews, book news & random rants

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

April 19th, 2011 by Debbie's World of Books

Source: Picked up at ALA Midwinter

Publication date: February 25, 2011

Publisher: Harper

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads.com: The life Kamila Sidiqi had known changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of the city of Kabul. After receiving a teaching degree during the civil war—a rare achievement for any Afghan woman—Kamila was subsequently banned from school and confined to her home. When her father and brother were forced to flee the city, Kamila became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings. Armed only with grit and determination, she picked up a needle and thread and created a thriving business of her own.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the incredible true story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban. Former ABC News reporter Gayle Tzemach Lemmon spent years on the ground reporting Kamila’s story, and the result is an unusually intimate and unsanitized look at the daily lives of women in Afghanistan. These women are not victims; they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation.

Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain as debates over withdrawal timelines dominate the news. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana moves beyond the headlines to transport you to an Afghanistan you have never seen before. This is a story of war, but it is also a story of sisterhood and resilience in the face of despair. Kamila Sidiqi’s journey will inspire you, but it will also change the way you think about one of the most important political and humanitarian issues of our time.

I started reading this book mainly because I wanted something different from the YA fare I have been reading lately and was not too excited about it but wanted to give it a try.  I was enthralled with it almost from the first couple of chapters.  I had no background knowledge of Afghanistan or their culture beyond the short clips I saw on the news after 9/11 and periodically when they make the headlines nowadays.  I was surprised at how different life was before the Taliban seized control and did not realize the profound effect this had on everyone especially the women in Afghanistan.  I never knew that women did attend college and had more opportunities than I thought although granted I imagine this was mainly for the wealthier women.  Still I can only imagine the shock they went through as so many of their former liberties were restricted or completely taken away.

Kamila was a complex character for me to understand.  In some instances I thought she was rash and could not believe the risks she took that placed not just herself but also her family in danger.  But when I really thought about how desperate she was to provide for her family and also all the other women who were struggling around her I can understand that the only way to do so was to be willing to take some risks.  I have to admire her because I do not know if I would have the courage to do so in an environment where even old women were being beaten for showing their face for even a few seconds in public.

This was a fascinating read that I was totally addicted to and could not stop reading.  One thing I wish this book did do was give updates not just on Kamila and a couple of the women she worked with but also more about what happened to some of the people Kamila came in contact with.  We find one store owner was now a taxi driver but I am curious why and if this was a positive or negative change for him.  Kamila’s younger brother, Rahim, played such an integral part through out the story that I was disappointed that the only update we get was that he went to college.  I was curious to hear what he was doing and if he also went into business after his experience working with his sisters.  Still this was a wonderful book that I think would make for some great discussions.

Posted in 4 Star Books, Books, Non-fiction

4 Responses

  1. kathy

    Nice review. I also enjoyed this story, I think it would make a great graduation gift for a teenage girl. MY review is here http://bookdiary2010.blogspot.com/2011/04/dressmaker-of-khair-khana.html

  2. Bibliotropic

    I have this book via NetGalley, and I haven’t read it yet but it looks like one I’m really going to enjoy, when I do get around to reading it. I’m glad you liked it.

  3. Helen Murdoch

    I’ll be reading this one in the next few weeks. thank you for the review!

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