Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

About book:

Kamila Sidiqi's life changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.  After her father and brother were forced to flee, she became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings.  Banned from school, confined to her home, and armed only with determination, she picked up a needle and thread to create a thriving business that saved their lives.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana tells the incredible true story of this unlikely entrepreneur who mobilized her community under the Taliban.  A story of war, it is also a story of family, faith, and resilience in the face of despair.  These women are not victims - they are the glue that holds families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation.  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.

My thoughts:

Story: inspiring example of female empowerment.

Writing: engrossing and very detailed.

Overall:  a must read!

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe, is an amazing true story.  It is inspiring, uplifting and a true testament to the strength and courage that Kamila Sidiqi exhibited when the "going" got beyond tough.  Having just received her teaching certificate and ready to attend university, Kamila's world gets turned upside down when the Taliban takes over Kabul.  From that day forward, she must abide by a new set of strict rules set up by the Taliban: she is no longer allowed to leave her house unless she is accompanied by a male chaperone; she must now wear a chadri (a burqa);  she is not allowed to attend school or work; and must not speak to any men.   If Kamila, or any woman, were to commit any of these forbidden acts they would be subjected to a severe punishment (think getting beaten on the street or getting thrown in jail).  Basically, life as Kamila had once known, no longer existed.

Forced to remain at home, Kamila and her sisters struggled to come to terms with their new lives, which consisted of reading the same books over and over.  They would receive news of the outside world by way of their radio or their father and brother who continued to work. As things progressed, it became apparent that Kamila's father and brother would have to leave Kabul sooner rather than later.  And so they left, with Kamila's father promising to send word once it was time for Kamila's mother to go and join him.  As a result of their departure, Kamila was left in charge of supporting the family - she became the breadwinner.  However, the fact that women were not allowed to work made Kamila's situation difficult - how was she going to earn any money to support her family?  Suddenly, the solution came to Kamila:  sew clothing and sell it to the local shops.  Women may be forced to wear chadris, but they still needed pantsuits and dresses.  Armed with her idea and a dress sample (her older sister, Malika, was a seamstress and teacher - she taught Kamila how to sew in one day), Kamila went into town escorted by her baby brother.  They made their way to the market and approached a shopkeeper.  With one eye on the door of his shop and the other on Kamila's sample, he quickly bought the dress and ordered some more.  Thrilled that her idea was going to work, Kamila and her brother rushed home to share the good news!  Soon enough, Kamila and her sisters are sewing up a storm and fielding orders.  Business is booming and Kamila's family is thriving.  And not one to neglect her community, Kamila hires other women to work and finds herself  helping to create more business opportunities for them as well.

Talk about a role model!  Kamila Sidiqi is the epitome of female empowerment. She is an amazing woman who provided for her family and helped to boost the morale of her community by creating jobs and businesses for the women left behind to fend for their families;  all the while, facing dangers that could leave her beaten, jailed or dead. 

Lemmon has written a terrific book about a young woman on a mission.  She has detailed the events and experiences that Kamila and her sisters endured as they struggled to live in a war that forbade them from living.  She writes about the bravery Kamila exhibited when she decided to go forward with an idea that would push the limits of Taliban's laws.  She writes with clear and descriptive details that at times feel as if you are being given a history lesson, or even leave you feeling as if you are reading a documentary instead of watching it.  That's not to say that the detached tone leaves you feeling disconnected - far from it!  In fact, I think that by not inserting her own ideas and opinions into the story, Lemmon is able to fully convey Kamila's voice in the story. 

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is an engaging read that will leave you feeling hopeful, inspired and awestruck.  You will want to share this book with everyone and anyone that will listen.  And, seriously, who wouldn't want to read a book that will leave them feeling so amazed and inspired?  I say, go out and get your copy of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana today and enjoy getting to know Kamila Sidiqi!
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for proving me with a copy of this book!


Ti said...

First off, I have to tell you how much I love the new review format. AND... your header pic!! Love it!

The book sounds wonderful. Nice job with the review.

Nadia said...

Thanks, Ti! I'm trying something different. Felt like I needed a change (as did the blog). As far as the book goes, it is so good! Glad you liked the review :)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Kamila sounds like an amazing woman for sure! And this sounds like a great book - I can't wait to read it myself.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!

Lisa said...

Once again I'm reminded of how much I take for granted and how grateful I am that there are people like Kamila to make the world a better place.

Nadia said...

Heather, she is an amazing woman! You will enjoy her story :) And, thanks for having me on the tour!

Lisa, I'm with you on that:)

Wendy Smith said...

I was given this book as a doorprize, so after reading your review, I have moved it closer to the top of the pile of books that need to be read. Thanks!

Wendy Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ceska said...

This is a riveting story of the power of determination and hope that can stem from nothing other than the power of love and family. The author shines with her execution of talented writing, a believable and endearing heroine readers won't ever forget, and a message for us all to never give up no matter how much the odds of winning seam dim. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is surely one for the reading discussion groups and I highly recommend putting this on the top of your reading pile.