The Dressmaker of Khair Khana – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Book Cover of Dressmaker of Khair KhanaFrom 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 Newsreporter 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.

Why I Chose It: It was suggested for the book club that I’m part of.

The Review:

I went into this book not knowing anything about it. I was immediately intrigued when I found out that it was about Afghanistan women entrepreneurs. I don’t know a lot about what happened within the country during those years, so I was excited that I would learn more from a woman who had actually lived through it. The Dressmaker or Khair Khana was both educational and emotional, and I thought it was very enjoyable.

Kamila is the main focus of the tale, which follows her as she watches her community fall into ruin under Taliban rule. Determined to find a way for her family to survive, Kamila becomes a seamstress, eventually turning her own living room into a thriving business that included many people from the community. I think the strength of Kamila is amazing. I was very impressed that she refused to turn any of the women from the community away, giving them jobs in her business and eventually creating a seamstress school to teach those who did not already have the skills. Kamila not only helped her family, she helped her community.

The book shows the changing culture of Khair Khana as Kamila lives through it – such as the requirement to go fully shrouded instead of with the simple headscarf Kamila grew up with. In addition, it does a very good job at showing how tense the community was, and how dangerous it was for women to go anywhere during this time – especially a woman who was engaging in selling her wares.

There were a few things I struggled with while throughout the story. I felt that the timing was strange, as sometimes the story would skip over a large amount of time. The story also didn’t show some things like her traveling across country to visit her parents. You get the impression that its a very dangerous journey, and yet the story skips over the travel. While the book is meant to cover a large amount of time, it sometimes felt a bit erratic.

Although I don’t usually read biographies, I would definitely recommend this book. I think The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is a very inspiring story. Kamila is a very strong woman with a strong faith, who led her family during a period of turmoil. It made me smile to read the epilogue and see what Kamila is doing today to help others. This is a story for entrepreneurs and women alike, because Kamila shows us that if you put your mind to it, anything is possible.

Rating: 4 / 5



2 comments on “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

  1. I’m a terrible person. I didn’t read this book this month :P I just didn’t have the time! It sounds like it was good though!

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