Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Synopsis From Back Cover:

Kamila Sadiqi'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 hold families together; they are the backbone and the heart of their nation.  Kamila Sadiqi'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. 

For those of you who have been reading the blog for a while, it will come as no surprise that I'm a huge fan of NPR.  I listen to it in my car and at work, when I can get away with it.  One of my favorite programs is The Diane Rehm show as she is one of those interviewers who can talk with her guests about any issue.  Politics, war, literature, music, health care, and I would say the kitchen sink, but that may be a bit redundant.   There is nothing she does not discuss on her show.  So needless to say I'm always intrigued when she is interviewing an author about a new book.  I'm constantly writing titles down that I plan on rushing to the bookstore and purchasing as soon as possible.  Well needless to say, I have a rather long list of books that are still not bought.  Thanks to blogging though, I have had the opportunity to not only read, but review, a few of those books on that list.  The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is one of those books.  I heard the interview on March 17th, 2011, and about a year later I was given the opportunity to read it for myself.  I would encourage everyone to click on the link above in order to listen to the interview as well.

I can only imagine what it would be like to have your entire life and country turned upon it's head.  To have your life, which was on one track, be completely altered by things totally out of your control.  Kamila Sadiqi is one of those individuals who not only managed to adapt to a country and it's rulers that wanted her behind closed doors, but she thrived.  When she is told that her education is over, that her career path is no longer valid for a woman in Afghanistan, she is left floundering for a bit.  It doesn't take long before she decides that she needs to do something for her family and eventually her community.

She faces the risks, which included beating, imprisonment, and even death, and starts her own dressmaking business.  From what starts as a her and her sisters sewing dresses to sell to some trusted local merchants, turns into a business that employees and teaches hundreds of women.  She felt a true calling to teach other women to fend for themselves in order to take care of their families.  Kamila is one of those people who manage to inspire me just by being who they are.  She weighed the odds, and in the end decided the risk was worth the danger.

As I was reading the book, I felt as if Kamila was telling the story.  The author does such a wonderful job of pulling her reader into the life of Kamila and her sisters, that despite the first person narrative that she opens the book with, the author was able to convey a sense of such intimacy.  It was a pure pleasure to read, and at only about 243 pages, it was a quick read as well.  I read it every chance I could, and would put other things aside just to pick the book up again.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read and review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews of the book.


Mystica said...

This sounds good. We read about so many people who have overcome odds in difficult circ umstances to do so much for not just themselves but their community as well.

Anonymous said...

I liked this book as well (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=4900). I also thought the author did a great job telling the story in Kamila's own words.

Helen's Book Blog said...

I liked this book as well. It really did make me proud to hear how the sisters formed a business, took charge of their lives, and controlled their destiny rather than allowing life to just happen to them

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon said...

Great to read your post. And the Diane Rehm broadcast was among my favorites -- she is a terrific interviewer.
The Dressmaker is really a celebration of unsung heroes and the power each of us has to change our world. The backdrop happens to be Afghanistan, but the themes of resilience, perseverance, family and faith are universal. Thanks for championing this story.
Very best,

Gayle Lemmon

bermudaonion said...

Kamila sounds like an incredibly strong woman. I always wonder if I'd be as strong. I like to think I would be, but -

Anonymous said...

What an inspiring and fascinating story! All the more so because it has such an improbable outcome.

Staci said...

I've had this one on my TBR list for a while..sounds great to me and the fact that you always wanted to get back to it says something about the writing.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I love it when I hear an interview about a great book and then get to read it - I always feel like I have a bit of insider knowledge, or that I "know" the author in some way.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one Ryan. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Lisa said...

I knew that the Afghani women had had those limitations but to read about trying to deal with the Taliban on a daily basis and to try to live your life was just incredible. I'm with you on NPR!

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

Someone recommended this book to me on Goodreads over a year ago. I've kind of always kept it in the back of my mind. Hopefully, I'll luck up on it at a library sale. =O) Anyway, great review, as always. You have such great insight. I will definitely be reading this some time in the future.

Did you guys have a good Easter? I came home from my trip sick last Friday and I'm still sick. I've decided to go to the doctor tomorrow, as I think it's bronchitis. Lovely.

No Mailbox Monday for you either this week, huh? I haven't posted it for two weeks. I think I'm burnt out. =O(

RAnn said...

I loved this, and loved the scene where she thanked the Taliban guy for protecting her. She figured out how to work the system

Eesti said...

I'm always fascinated by stories detailing the unique trials and triumphs of women in harrowing historical periods but rarely seek them out actively. So I was very pleased to select The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon to receive from the folks at Harper to review.

The author journeys to Afghanistan to find and tell the story of women who helped ensure the survival of their families and communities during the Taliban's reign. She meets a woman named Kamela and the book focuses on the dressmaking business that she ran, along with her siblings (mostly sisters, but one of her brothers helps as an escort and with other duties), in a Kabul suburb. Kamela's family had been well-off prior to the Taliban's rule and education was highly valued for both the nine daughters and two sons. The story highlights the vast changes that the Taliban brought, noting that the county had long suffered from political struggles but that Kamela went from an involved student to being more like a prisoner in her own home. Kamela finds a need and learns to navigate the climate in order to create a dressmaking business that brings much needed money to her family and to neighbors as well.