The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Synopsis from publisher:
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.
Monday, April 11
I am going to try out a new system for talking about what I'm reading - I am finding it difficult to sit down and write out a formal review for each book, so I thought I'd just write some quick updates as I'm reading. Part of my problem is that I have lots of insights as I'm reading, but find that when I sit down several days later to write the review, they have all leaked out of my head. (I'm blaming the lack of sleep for that one. *grin*) So I thought perhaps writing little bits each day - closer to when I actually read - might help me save some of those thoughts. We'll see. I might decide I hate it....
I'm about 60 pages into this nonfiction work and am loving it so far. I love the author's purpose behind the book. She says that she is accustomed to reading war stories of women who are left as victims - she wanted to write a story about women who emerge as resilient survivors. It's a different kind of war story, and so far it has been fascinating.
Kamela and her family are wonderful. The author stresses how Kamela's father was committed to educating ALL his children - both boys and girls - because he believed it was a duty of his faith to share knowledge and serve his community. I think I've always had a view of Afghanistan that involved rural, mostly illiterate families, or bombed out cities filled with poverty and despair - perhaps because that's what I saw on CNN so often. This book paints such a different picture of life in Kabul, and makes the imprisonment of women under the Taliban regime even more tragic.
So far, so good with this one - can't wait to read more.
Tuesday, April 12
I am just blowing through this book - it's a fairly short volume, and at the rate I'm going I will be done in no time. I am still finding Kamela's story to be fascinating. Once again, it is giving me such a different perspective on this part of the world. Kamela's brand of Islam is so far removed from the intolerance that tends to cloud our view of the religion. Part of the reason she is so driven to make a success of her dressmaking business is because she believes it is her duty under Islam to help as many people as she can. She is doing this not only to support her family, but to support as many others in her situation as possible.
The daily dangers she and her brother face are astounding. Every time they leave the house they face the very real possibility of beating or imprisonment. It's amazing to remember that these are teenagers - kids who, here in America, would be worried about what dress to wear to prom, or whether or not they could borrow the car Friday night.
Wednesday, April 13
Finished this one tonight - as expected, it didn't take long. What a truly amazing story. The author did a fantastic job of keeping herself out of the narrative- I never felt like she was putting a "spin" on the story at all, just relating the events in the lives of this remarkable family.
The book is pretty intense, so the section about "Titanic fever" sweeping across Kabul was a welcome moment of lightness - apparently, Jack and Rose are everyone's favorite doomed couple.
Near the end of the book, the author says:
"Brave young women complete heroic acts every day, with no one bearing witness. This was a chance to even the ledger, to share one small story that made the difference between starvation and survival for the families whose lives it changed."
I would absolutely recommend this book for that very reason - we tell young people all the time that they can make a difference if they just put their mind to it. Here is an example that can't be ignored, of a young woman who chooses to put herself in danger for the good of her family and community, and the difference it makes in the lives around her. It is a remarkable story, and I won't soon forget it.
Source: review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: PG for scenes of potential danger and depictions of violence against women
My rating: 9/10