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The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

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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 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 humanitarianissues of our time.


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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 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 humanitarianissues of our time.

30 review for The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

  1. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Gale Tzemach Lemmon offers us a profile in courage about a young woman who defied the daunting odds in Taliban-controlled Kabul to established a business that offered employment, income and hope to her family and neighbors, at a time when all three were in very short supply. One of the many awful aspects of the extreme form of Islam practiced by the Afghan Taliban is their complete subjugation of women. Women are not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. They are not Gale Tzemach Lemmon offers us a profile in courage about a young woman who defied the daunting odds in Taliban-controlled Kabul to established a business that offered employment, income and hope to her family and neighbors, at a time when all three were in very short supply. One of the many awful aspects of the extreme form of Islam practiced by the Afghan Taliban is their complete subjugation of women. Women are not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative. They are not allowed to work outside the home. When in public, women must at all times wear the head-to-toe-covering burkah, also known as a chadri. The list of forbiddens goes on like a list of biblical begats, and shifts with the moods of local commanders. When the Taliban took over control of most of Afghanistan in 1996, they made their version of Sharia the law of the land, and a dark age (or a darker age, anyway, as it had not been a frolicsome garden spot before) fell over the land. However, even in the darkest of times, there are always some points of light. Kamela Sediqi was one shining example. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon - image from M.M. Lafleur Sediqi and her family were Tajiks, the second largest ethnic group in the country. The Taliban are Pashtun, the largest. Remaining resistance to Taliban rule was centered north of Kabul among groups of largely Tajik ethnicity. Believing that all ethnic Tajiks were thus suspect, the Taliban engaged in a widespread campaign of oppression, particularly against Tajik males. Sediqi’s father, even with over thirty years in the Afghanistan military, knew that his service was of less significance to the Taliban than his Tajik ancestry. He fled to the north, placing leadership of the family in the hands of the young Kamela, a recent graduate of the Kabul Teacher Training academy. As new head of her family, Kamela struggled to find some way for the family to earn income. The education system was in tatters, particularly for women, so teaching was not an option. Although she had no experience with tailoring, she recognized that there was an unmet need and, with the assistance of her expert-seamstress sister, Malekheh, and her many other sisters, she began a small business sewing clothing for sale by local tailors. Soon demand for her family’s products exceeded the family’s ability to produce them, so Kamela began taking on trustworthy neighbors. Everyone who worked at her home was thrilled to have any work at all, given how difficult it was for women to work in this males-only world. Still, Kamela had to contend with the ever-present threat of beating and/or arrest by roaming groups of sharia enforcers. Lemmon tells how the business thrived and kept growing during the trying time of Taliban control. After their removal from power in 2001, her business boomed, branching off into various other directions. Kamela’s little sewing shop had become a considerable concern. She was also recruited by the NGOs that had returned to Kabul, to try to find ways to use her expertise to educate a new generation of entrepreneurial women. Lemmon does an excellent job of keeping herself out of the story, recreating Kamela’s tale from 1996 to the present, but mostly until the 2001 US retaliation for 9/11. It reads very quickly. She communicates quite well the sense of ubiquitous danger and fear that permeated the country. One of the great concerns present today is that the Taliban will return to some measure of power, and women’s hard-fought gains will be lost. It is not an idle concern. There are many stories to be told about Afghanistan and the Taliban. Lemmon’s tale is very revealing, about what is possible with intelligence, craft and determination, even when faced with overwhelming opposition. Kamela’s small business triumph is a pretty big deal, showing one way in which elements of the devastated Afghan economy can rebuild. However, it is not the only deal. I found that Lemmon’s business-centric view of the world may have caused her to overlook some things. Lest one believe that this is a story of a poor girl making good, Kamela did not come from a poor family. In the very beginning we are introduced to her as a teaching institute graduate, which speaks of the availability of resources beyond the norm in this poor country. That the family had a spare apartment that they rented to a doctor for income indicates more of the same. Surely, her father’s decades of service in the national army contributed to that. While the family may not have been wealthy by American standards, they were pretty well off by Kabul standards. This takes nothing away from Kamela’s bravery or accomplishment. We work with what we have. But the significance is in what one extrapolates from the experience. I get the impression that Lemmon sees entrepreneurship in almost religious terms. If only we would let people make businesses everything would be fabulous. The educational and financial opportunities Kamela enjoyed were not available to many women. She had a leg up. Which is ok, unless one seeks to use the example of Kamela as the sole model for how to rebuild. Then it becomes dishonest. Kamela is a remarkable individual. Well if she could do it, why can’t you? And that is how I fear this book might be used, as a means of promoting a particular ideology. Entrepreneurship can be hugely creative and productive but it is not the only tool in the toolbox. Public and NGO programs have a significant place in economic reconstruction, whether the scarred surface is Kabul or Brownsville. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is a readable, interesting look at one aspect of life under Taliban tyranny, and any such effort that fuels hope for a better future is most welcome. ============================EXTRA STUFF Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

  2. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    2014 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I felt this book, although well-intended, was trite, shallow and implausible. The main character, Kamila, takes it upon herself to start a home-based business designing and sewing custom dresses for women in Kabul during the time of a civil war when the Taliban essentially ruled Kabul and surrounding areas. I simply do not find it feasible that women living under the Taliban would need such garments when it was a struggle to even get food on the table for their families. I would not even recomme I felt this book, although well-intended, was trite, shallow and implausible. The main character, Kamila, takes it upon herself to start a home-based business designing and sewing custom dresses for women in Kabul during the time of a civil war when the Taliban essentially ruled Kabul and surrounding areas. I simply do not find it feasible that women living under the Taliban would need such garments when it was a struggle to even get food on the table for their families. I would not even recommend it for reading by young students in middle school or high school. The New York Times placed the book in the non-fiction category on their expanded best seller list. To me it was more of a novel and belongs in "fiction". There was no emotional depth whatsoever. The book was also quite lacking in the details of daily life in Kabul during this period. There was also no follow-up or analysis of what is going on there today even though the book was published only recently. Anyone who merely glances at the news each day knows that Afghanistan, including Kabul, is a very dangerous place with increased bombings, corruption, political and economic insecurity. I have read many books dealing with both other cultures and current events. Other books that were much more meaningful include "Half The Sky" by Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn. The subject is the oppression of women world-wide and measures being taken to alleviate their suffering. Also, "The Blue Sweater" by Jacqueline Novogratz, was thoughtfully and carefully written and provided deep insights into the issues, success stories and limitations of the microfinance enterprises available to assist women world-wide.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    A flawed book with the best of intentions The Taliban arrived in Kabul the day Kamila Sidiqi received her teaching certificate. Shortly thereafter, the teenager became the unofficial head of a large household of younger siblings (mostly female) after her parents and teenage brother fled to safety in the countryside and Pakistan, respectively. The young women quickly adapted to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban on movements (leaving the house only at certain times of day, always accompanied A flawed book with the best of intentions The Taliban arrived in Kabul the day Kamila Sidiqi received her teaching certificate. Shortly thereafter, the teenager became the unofficial head of a large household of younger siblings (mostly female) after her parents and teenage brother fled to safety in the countryside and Pakistan, respectively. The young women quickly adapted to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban on movements (leaving the house only at certain times of day, always accompanied by a male relative escort, covered by a head to toe veil) and women's working (not allowed except for small domestic industry within the home). But Kamila soon realised that she would need to think up something to support the family, so she started a dressmaking business with her siblings, soon putting many young women in the neighbourhood to work as well. Although the story is compelling, the book suffers from being poorly written and edited. We get a series of vignettes, painted with detail, but not well. I would rather have had some transitional passages than to read about how someone reclined on a red floor cushion or tossed a thick braid over her shoulder. Some details are contradictory or don't seem realistic (she learned to make a dress in one afternoon, the dress was able to be marketed, and she was able to instantly teach her sisters). The younger sisters are nearly interchangeable except for their job descriptions: we only really get a personality for Kamila and Malika. The mother arrives back in Kabul, supposedly to stay, and quickly leaves again with no explanation. Months or years pass and the reader is left confused about how old the sisters are now... and so forth. While I find the character of Kamila compelling I felt this book had a bit of a Polyanna attitude. No one in the family had any apparent flaws, there were no arguments (except for one time when Malika breathes deeply for a few minutes), and every decision made by Kamila, no matter how rash, turns out to be a good one. The explanation of the fall of Kabul to American occupation is rushed through, and certain phrases are repeated over and over ("the men from Kandahar"). I suspect the author was a little bit too in love with the family to write objectively. Also, this book could have been edited with a much heavier hand to delineate the timeline, clear up inconsistent detail, and eliminate some of the tired prose. It is only because the story of Kamila and her sisters is so compelling that I finished the book at all. They deserved a better book than this one.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

    I was given this book as required reading at University of Florida, as a part of our "common reading" program where every Freshman receives the same book so that we share a common "intellectual experience". Let me say two things: 1) There was nothing intellectual whatsoever going on with this book. 2) Thank GOD I didn't pay for it. This book was well intended and cut a good message: sympathize with and appreciate the women who stay behind to make things work while the men are at war. The writing it I was given this book as required reading at University of Florida, as a part of our "common reading" program where every Freshman receives the same book so that we share a common "intellectual experience". Let me say two things: 1) There was nothing intellectual whatsoever going on with this book. 2) Thank GOD I didn't pay for it. This book was well intended and cut a good message: sympathize with and appreciate the women who stay behind to make things work while the men are at war. The writing itself was trite. There was no character development whatsoever--the author never delved much into any emotional thoughts besides "Oh god, I'm scared to work because of the Taliban, but I must feed my family!!", which in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing to write about; it's just that it was overworked ad nauseum. Some of the phrases that she employed in the novel were literally laughable, stuff along the lines of (going from memory here), 'Kamila was so glad that her sister had made it back okay from the market. She wanted desperately for her to be safe, and she was. The power of prayer and optimism had helped her through these tough times.' I'm upset that this book passed as literature, and that a relatively prestigious university provided this to me and demanded that I read it for a mandatory freshman-year class called "what is the good life", which is intended to help freshman achieve a broader perspective of life and its successes, failures, wants, needs, and things of that sort. I can only hope that things improve from here. Edit, a year later: I met the author of the book as well as the woman it was written about. Great women. Nauseatingly trite book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe","Gayle Tzemach Lemmon" "An account of how a teen aged girl made a big difference for her family and community during the time of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. She had just graduated from teacher training when the law was enforced that women could not work outside the home, must wear a burqa if it was necessary to leave the home and must be accompanied by a male relati The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe","Gayle Tzemach Lemmon" "An account of how a teen aged girl made a big difference for her family and community during the time of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. She had just graduated from teacher training when the law was enforced that women could not work outside the home, must wear a burqa if it was necessary to leave the home and must be accompanied by a male relative outside. Her parents and older brother had to leave their village as the father was in danger due to his past politics and the older brother might be imprisoned or forced into Taliban army. No one was permitted to indulge in books, music, drawing, board games or kite flying. Young men roamed the streets and market place with the job to beat anyone they felt were breaking the rules. As a sewing impaired reader, I found it hard to believe that after one day taking sewing lessons from an older married sister who lived elsewhere, this young girl became so accomplished as a dressmaker that she took her dress she finished in her first lesson to the market and got an order to sell them more garments. To fulfill the order she goes home and teaches her 4 younger sisters immediately how to make beautiful garments much in demand at local tailors. There was still a very young brother at home who accompanied her to the dressmaking shops in the market place, but she had to carry out her business in secret. She soon was able to recruit neighboring girls and women and teach them the business. All the time they work in fear of discovery by the Taliban, but eventually they have a large order to make gorgeous beaded dresses for a wedding, and when the order is completed they discover it is for a Taliban wedding. Due to her skill and industry she is able to support her large family during the absence of her parents and becomes a local hero for enterprising women during a time of extreme hardship. If you liked inspiring stories about people making a difference during times of hardship, such as Western people in Three Cups of Tea, or Little Princes, or local people in such books as The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Such a Long Journey, you should find this account interesting. I did not find it as well written but still gives you an idea of what people had to endure under the Taliban.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    NO SPOILERS!!! On completion: It didn't take me very long to read this book, that is simply because I found it very interesting. In fact it won over browsing GR! When a book doesn't draw me, I usually find something else to do; I find all sorts of other things that have to be done. I do this unconsciously. This book I read in three days! What I liked about the book was that it provided a chance to experience life in Kabul under the Muzahideen, the Taliban and the bombing of Kabul after al Quaeda's NO SPOILERS!!! On completion: It didn't take me very long to read this book, that is simply because I found it very interesting. In fact it won over browsing GR! When a book doesn't draw me, I usually find something else to do; I find all sorts of other things that have to be done. I do this unconsciously. This book I read in three days! What I liked about the book was that it provided a chance to experience life in Kabul under the Muzahideen, the Taliban and the bombing of Kabul after al Quaeda's terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in September 2001. Kamila lived through this all. You are there with her. Reading this book inspires hope for Aghanistan. It shows, through one woman's experiences, the ingenuity and fighting spirit of the people. If she can suceed as she has, so can others. The prose style is clear and straightforward. This well serves the purpose of the book. Hopefully the excerpts below are adequate for you to judge for yourself. The questions posed in the prologue are clearly answered. Kamila's life experiences, how she was raised by her father with his strong belief in the value of education, the trust he placed upon her, the hardship endured during these years and her inborn entrepreneurial talents shaped Kamila. All of these factors together made her the strong woman portrayed in this book, a woman fighting for her country. It is very important this book was written. Kamila deserves to be known and admired. What she has done inspires hope. ********************************************************** Through 57% of the book: Typical, the minute I say that the focus of the book is upon the business aspect of Kamila's enterprise, the focus changes. We are know learning about the different girls sewing or attending the sewing school initiated by Kamila. I like learning about their individual circumstances. When Mahnaz heard through a cousin's friend about Kamila and the girls her age who were sewing together just a block away, she had jumped at the opportunity to join them. Two of her sisters, one of whom was determined to become a doctor when school was allowed again, quickly decided to come along once they heard how Mahnaz was enjoying herself. "It's not even like being in Kabul City," she told her siblings after her first day at Kamila's house. "It feels like a place where there is no Taliban at all, and no fighting. There are just all these women working together and talking and sharing stories. It's wonderful." '57%) These teenagers who had been free to go out and associate with their friends, go to school and read books were suffocating under the Taliban regime. Wearing chadri was the least of their problems. Kamila's enterprise and school was heaven to them. The Afghan youngsters, both the boys and the girls, were forced into adulthood over night. Their maturity is praiseworthy. You miust read about Kamila's thirteen year-old brother Rahim! He was the sole male left in the house. ************************************************** 56% through the book: This book begins with a prolgue explaining why the book was written. What questions did it aim to answer. This is in fact very important in that these intentions guide the path the book is to follow. The author went to Afghanistan to write a report for the Financial Times to study the new generation of businesswomen who had emerged in the wake of Taliban takeover and to find for the Harvard School of Business a case study focused upn women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. Kamila Sidigi was a women who through her own business saved her own sisters, helped many other Afghan women and helped her country. What motivated Kamila to passionately fight for her country? This question too was to be answered. It is very important to keep the purpose of the book in mind when reading the book. The challenges Kamila faced to achieve her goals are revealing. The book is about how Kamila achieved these goals and what actually motivated her. I will again provide an excerpt from the book. These lines are found at the 55-56% marking: "While we are sitting here, I think we need to talk about space." Saaman said, "I mean the fact that we are running out of it." Already the work had expanded from the living room to the dining room, and it was threatening to spread further still into the last remaing family room. Dresses now hung from all sorts of unusual spaces, from doorframes and table corners to the backs of chairs. The front rooms of the family home had been transformed into a workshop that regularly ran fifteen hours a day at full capacity. Chairs forming a U filled the living room so that classes could be taught in the center and the girls could see their classmates' work, though some young women still preferred to sew sitting cross-legged on the floor. Hurricane lamps lit the rectangular room from each corner, since sunlight faded out of the sitting area in the late morning. When the dusk arrived, the girls....... I've been thinking about buying a generator from Lycée Myriam. Sometimes the focus on matters of business are made at the expense of getting to know the trials and tribulations of the girls. I still do not know all the names of Kamila's four sister who live and work with her in the tailoring business. One name has yet to be mentioned! At the same time the book shows both how war intimately shapes women's lives and the resoucefullnes of which they are capable. ETA: I was wrong, confused or whatever. I DO know the four sisters' names. I didn't think I should count in the older sister Malika! My error, not an omission from the book. There are however nine sisters. The four who do not live at home are not spoken of. I am a nut for keeping all the family members straight. The four unnamed sisters do NOT play a role in the story, so they need not be mentioned. I am just curious where they are and what they are doing..... How do they fit in? ********************************************* 24% through the book:This is intersting, absorbing and at the moment I judge it much, much better than Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, which by the way I gave 5 stars. Afghan history before and during the Taliban takeover in 1996 is more clearly presented, and yet the story about Kamila Sidiqi and her family is equally engaging. It reads like a story but it is a biography! You learn about different cultural groups predominant in differnt areas of the country, customes, clothing and foods specific to Afghan life. You come to understand how the Taliban arose. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979, masses of children were left orphans. They were raised under the doctrine of the most strict Islamists. Sharia and purdah was the life they knew. They knew of nothing else. To understand where we stand today with Afghanistan you have to understand its past. You must also know that once in the 1960s and 1970s life was cosmopolitan. Under Mohammad Daoud Khan, Afghanistan was a republic, the king had been overthrown. Soon thereafter came the Soviets, then the Mujahideen, the civil war, the Taliban...... This history is well told. Clearly, precisely and engagingly - with relevance to the Sidigi family. The book is about this family and the women who survived under the Taliban. They were educated women. Several were teachers with diplomas in hand. The book strives to show how they survived and from where they drew their strength to fight for a modern, free Afghanistan. Free for women as well as men. An Afghanistan whers women may go to school, get the jobs they choose and wear the clothes of their choice. The last was actually the least important. Under the Taliban the women were left to their own resources. The men had to leave. Leave or die. I have only read 24% of this egalley. It is fascinating and engaging and it is all true. Here follows a quote so you can judge for yourself if the subject matter and prose style fits you as much as it does me. This following concerns the women of the Sidigi family. There were nine girls in this family, only two boys. The following excerpt is found 12% through the egalley: They had grown up in the capital long after Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan had embraced the voluntary unveiling of his countrywomaen in the 1950s. King Amanullah Khan had attempted this reform unsuccessfully thirty years earlier, but it wasn't until 1959, when the prime minister's own wife appeared at a national independence day celebration wearing a headscarf rather than the full chadri, that the change finally took hold. That one gesture stunded the crowd and marked a cultural turning point in the capital. Kabul's next generation of women had gone on to become teachers, factory workers, doctors and civil servants; they went to work with their heads loosely covered and their faces exposed. Before today many had never had reason to wear or even own the full veils of their grandmothers' generation. Suddenly the tide had rturned again...... Now this is reading. I am not struggling at all. I am so glad I quit Mistress of the Art of Death. I tried to like that, but I couldn't.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    My reaction to this book was, "I should feel an emotional connection to these women and their situation, but I feel nothing." I was trying to figure out if that was my fault or the fault of the author. This book is the true story of women in Kabul during the Taliban terror. Their lives were drastically changed as they were forced from their jobs, their schooling, and the streets, to live lives of house arrest. One woman risks a lot--her own life, her family's safety, to put together a dressmaking My reaction to this book was, "I should feel an emotional connection to these women and their situation, but I feel nothing." I was trying to figure out if that was my fault or the fault of the author. This book is the true story of women in Kabul during the Taliban terror. Their lives were drastically changed as they were forced from their jobs, their schooling, and the streets, to live lives of house arrest. One woman risks a lot--her own life, her family's safety, to put together a dressmaking business in her home and teach other women skills that will help them to support their families. I did enjoy the audible version; the narrator was great, and it was so nice to know how to pronounce all of those names and places I had been reading about. I decided that while the true story is a good one, that this journalist didn't do it justice. There were huge gaps in the story--lots of detail in a chapter, and then huge pieces mentioned as an afterthought.It would be like your roommate telling you everything that happened to her for a semester, but neglecting to mention except in passing that she got married. Our bookgroup discussion was nearly unanimous on this--the author didn't do what she needed to to bring any emotive quality to the story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    So after spending hours searching for a free copy of this online, eventually having to pay 10 bucks to buy the e-book, and reading this in somewhat of a hurry for college -- turns out I didn't have to read it after all. Nice. Going. Me. This book really wasn't my cup of tea. And don't get me wrong; it's definitely not because of the subject matter. A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner are two of my most favourite books ever and they were also set around the same period of time and place. An So after spending hours searching for a free copy of this online, eventually having to pay 10 bucks to buy the e-book, and reading this in somewhat of a hurry for college -- turns out I didn't have to read it after all. Nice. Going. Me. This book really wasn't my cup of tea. And don't get me wrong; it's definitely not because of the subject matter. A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner are two of my most favourite books ever and they were also set around the same period of time and place. And the fact that this book is actually semi-biographical should make it more appealing to me, right? Wrong. Because really, nothing much happened at all! It is literally - A bunch of women take up dressmaking. The End. And I don't know, I guess I should have felt at least something for these women. Maybe it was the way it was written, but I really didn't. Meaning that this book felt a lot less real to me than the fiction books by Khaled Hosseini.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lynne

    A poorly told yet interesting story about a family in Afghanistan after the Taliban came in. The best part was the afterward. I still don't understand/agree with the father and mother for leaving their children to fend for themselves during tumultuous times. A poorly told yet interesting story about a family in Afghanistan after the Taliban came in. The best part was the afterward. I still don't understand/agree with the father and mother for leaving their children to fend for themselves during tumultuous times.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Wow. Just finished this book and am still processing the tale, the truths, the atrocities and their implications. A true story of a family of (mostly) women, and the changes they faced when the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan. This story is extremely powerful and eye-opening ...giving the reader a glimpse into life for women in this turbulent and brutal time. A government change that forced women into near house-arrest, took away personal liberties and education, and the ability to earn a Wow. Just finished this book and am still processing the tale, the truths, the atrocities and their implications. A true story of a family of (mostly) women, and the changes they faced when the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan. This story is extremely powerful and eye-opening ...giving the reader a glimpse into life for women in this turbulent and brutal time. A government change that forced women into near house-arrest, took away personal liberties and education, and the ability to earn a living. I did feel at times that the book "glossed" over the events, realities and hardships experienced by these women and their families. I felt like we were only hearing how much this family accomplished and how much good they did in their community rather than how difficult and perilous this journey was for them. And in saying that I'm not suggesting this book or the family were bragging - more that the author focused primarily on the positives rather than delving into the Taliban underbelly. And that's not a bad thing. It was also refreshing to read a book about women and their achievements. It was lovely to hear about success and joy in a place where all we seem to see and hear in the media is hardship and brutality. The style of writing is simplistic, an easy read, not too deep or confusing. I liked the way this book forced you to think about the issues, and put yourself in their shoes - imagine how I would react if the Taliban (or other) came to my home and changed everything about the way I lived, worked, dressed. Imagine how I would survive, help my family when all the doors seemed closed. Deep respect for these women of Kabul and thankful to author for bearing witness and sharing their story.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Karen Ng

    I read this book overnight...and I don't usually do that since I love to sleep. This book drew me in right at the moment Gayle Lemmon landed in the airport and went into the bathroom to change into black all over and cover her hair and face....I thought I knew Middle East enough already, until I read this book. The author risked her own life traveling all the way to Kabul, to report a story about a woman who was strong and brave who sacrificed her safety to help out her family and other women in I read this book overnight...and I don't usually do that since I love to sleep. This book drew me in right at the moment Gayle Lemmon landed in the airport and went into the bathroom to change into black all over and cover her hair and face....I thought I knew Middle East enough already, until I read this book. The author risked her own life traveling all the way to Kabul, to report a story about a woman who was strong and brave who sacrificed her safety to help out her family and other women in need during the Taliban's rule in Kabul. All women had to stay indoor, were required to cover themselves from head to toe, and could not talk to any men that are not their relatives. When her parents and brother left the girls in Kabul and moved elsewhere for safety, Kamila, the main character, started a dress making business at home to support her sisters, as well as all other women, who came asking for help. It was a very risky and dangerous thing to do, but she survived, and lives to tell the story, as well as carrying on her humanitarian work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Read this in one sitting under the impression it was a work of non-fiction revealing little known truths of a burgeoning cottage industry and its subsequent hardships under Taliban rule. At the conclusion of the book there's even a photo of the protagonist posing with Condoleeza Rice. That's why I was mightily confused to read the publisher's boilerplate disclaimer that all similarities to those either living or dead was completely unintentional as this was a creation of the author's imagination Read this in one sitting under the impression it was a work of non-fiction revealing little known truths of a burgeoning cottage industry and its subsequent hardships under Taliban rule. At the conclusion of the book there's even a photo of the protagonist posing with Condoleeza Rice. That's why I was mightily confused to read the publisher's boilerplate disclaimer that all similarities to those either living or dead was completely unintentional as this was a creation of the author's imagination. Fiction? Non-fiction? please pick one. I can forgive almost anything if the writing is good which this was not. A superficial treatment of a serious subject. Dumbed down to the point I wouldn't even recommend it to Young Adult readers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    I just could not get interested in this book or connect with the characters, but appreciate the initiative of the Afghanistan women who began a sewing business in their home to survive the Taliban rule. This non-fiction work came across as emotionless for me, and I am still confused as to who was purchasing all these clothes since everyone was so poor. (I began skimming about mid-way so I may have missed something)Perhaps my questions will be answered as the book is discussed next month at my lo I just could not get interested in this book or connect with the characters, but appreciate the initiative of the Afghanistan women who began a sewing business in their home to survive the Taliban rule. This non-fiction work came across as emotionless for me, and I am still confused as to who was purchasing all these clothes since everyone was so poor. (I began skimming about mid-way so I may have missed something)Perhaps my questions will be answered as the book is discussed next month at my local book club meeting.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Athira (Reading on a Rainy Day)

    The author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, was an MBA student at Harvard Business School, when she yearned to do some research in a subject that mattered but which no one cared for much. That brought her to the topic of women entrepreneurship in war-torn Rwanda, and then to Afghanistan. Her initial search efforts in Kabul raised no potential candidates. It was after a long hunt that she found the protagonist of this biography and this book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is her attempt to tell the story o The author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, was an MBA student at Harvard Business School, when she yearned to do some research in a subject that mattered but which no one cared for much. That brought her to the topic of women entrepreneurship in war-torn Rwanda, and then to Afghanistan. Her initial search efforts in Kabul raised no potential candidates. It was after a long hunt that she found the protagonist of this biography and this book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is her attempt to tell the story of that woman entrepreneur. Kamila Sadiqi was just returning home after receiving her diploma when she overheard many rumors about the Taliban's arrival at the outskirts of the city, fully intending to take control. The past four years wasn't the safest period for Kamila and her sisters, but their father was every bit insistent that the girls be educated. "The pen is stronger than the sword" - he loved to say. He had grown up watching European women work side-by-side with men, and he wanted his girls (and two boys) to be educated and capable of looking after themselves and their family in any dire situation. But with the Taliban's arrival, a lot of avenues close up. Girls and women were forced to wear the chadri (the full-length burkha with just a tiny latticed slit for them to see through); they couldn't step out of their homes without a mahram, a male familial companion, and they weren't allowed to converse with any man who is not family. That figuratively shut them in their own homes. Those who didn't follow the rules were beaten ruthlessly. Kamila's parents were originally from the north and her father had worked for the previous government. This made their lives even less safe, prompting her father, her mother, and finally one of her brothers to leave to the north. Only Kamila, her youngest brother and her sisters were left behind. Perhaps the only aspect that I didn't understand was how these girls - of whom only one was married and living separately with her husband and children, and also happened to be pregnant with twins, and Kamila, the elder of the rest was herself just seventeen - were left behind by their family. It was not safe outside, the author has reiterated time and again. Kamila's father has also explained that the girls were safer at home, but the menfolk weren't, because they were either put in prisoner camps (esp if they were found to have had worked for the previous government), or sent to the front lines to battle. And it was dangerous to move the whole family together. But I felt it was even riskier to leave the girls home alone, since they could barely get out of the home at risk of being beaten or taken to jail, and their only mahram was a thirteen-year old boy, too young to take responsibility (though Rahim proves to be so much more dependable, to be honest). Since their funds are running real low now, Kamila comes up with a really risky idea to start a tailoring business. If she is caught, it can mean a lot of danger for herself, her mahram (Rahim), the shopkeepers who place orders, and her sisters. But Kamila being as stubborn as she is, she goes ahead with her plan. After a few initial misgivings, her sisters, who have been feeling lacklustre from nothing to do, jump into the opportunity. But everyone was having the same thought - how long will this continue? Kamila is clearly a really strong woman, endowed with not just determination, but also a strong set of business skills that come in real handy and are even necessary. Gayle writes a really inspiring account of this young woman's life and those of her hard-working sisters, especially her older sister - Malika. I spent page after page rooting for the girls, hoping that none of the terrible danger befalls them. I'm not going to spoil it for you by saying what happens - you should find it out. While not one of the best biographies I've lately read on this topic, the story is no less inspirational. This is a fast and short read - only occasionally the writing disappointed me. One really sad consequence of the war in Afghanistan is the warped perspective that we have all developed as outsiders. Most of our opinions have been shaped by the statements of the warring governments, the media, the Taliban, the soldiers/fighters. Amidst all this din, the voices of the civilians actually stuck in the war have been very subdued. I've always wondered - how did the women feel about wearing the burkha? How did they accept the no-education-only-housework role? Didn't they yearn for freedom, to be heard, accepted for who they were, loved? How did they settle into this kind of life? Probably the most revealing fact was that these women had never seen or even owned a burkha until the Taliban came by. Until then, they were quite adventurous women - who partied in stylish western wear, educated themselves to be doctors, teachers, etc, and were very very respected by men.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Suze

    Reading a book like this makes me sit back and think about how lucky women are in this country. We are free to pursue our dreams. We can be whoever we want to be. We are even encouraged to educate ourselves to achieve success and enlighten our minds. In Afghanistan, that is most certainly not the case, at least not when this story takes place. There is no limit to the admiration I feel for the women who have accomplished so much while being discouraged, threatened and jailed. Such courage I canno Reading a book like this makes me sit back and think about how lucky women are in this country. We are free to pursue our dreams. We can be whoever we want to be. We are even encouraged to educate ourselves to achieve success and enlighten our minds. In Afghanistan, that is most certainly not the case, at least not when this story takes place. There is no limit to the admiration I feel for the women who have accomplished so much while being discouraged, threatened and jailed. Such courage I cannot imagine. I am not surprised, though. I believe women always rise to the occasion. I point to the duration of WWII as an example. Even so, they never had to overcome the oppression that the Afghani women suffered. I am just so in awe. This book is very inspirational. Every time I feel sorry for myself, I will pick it up and read it again. Thank you for risking so much to write this wonderful book, Ms. Lemmon. Highly recommended.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Eric Wright

    I rarely read a book that creates such an impression that I continue to carry with me the vivid pictures for months, years. This book is one such and it is true. It is an absolutely inspiring story of human triumph against difficulties that leave me with my jaw hanging open. Kamila Sidiqi's life was changed overnight when the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Her parents and a brother had to flee. She was left as the sole breadwinner for her four sisters and one young brother. What could she do, co I rarely read a book that creates such an impression that I continue to carry with me the vivid pictures for months, years. This book is one such and it is true. It is an absolutely inspiring story of human triumph against difficulties that leave me with my jaw hanging open. Kamila Sidiqi's life was changed overnight when the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Her parents and a brother had to flee. She was left as the sole breadwinner for her four sisters and one young brother. What could she do, confined as a woman to her home compound, able to go abroad only with her young brother at times that would not conflict with Taliban patrols? Kamila demonstrated incredible grit, determination and ingenuity. Through learning to sew and teaching others, she established a dressmaking concern that brought in what they needed to live...but not only her family but many others. Kamila became an marvelous entrepreneur ultimately tapped by the UN to help in their concerns. The story, though true, reads like a suspenseful thriller. One never knows when the Taliban will discover their enterprise or arrest her for her bazaar jaunts to sell dresses. Everyone with concerns as broad as Afghanistan/Pakistan/Iraq or how to motivate people to self-reliance and entrepreneurship should read this and rejoice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Nicole

    Amazingly powerful biography of Kamila Sidiqi, a young educated Afghan women, as told from the perspective of American journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. This non-fiction work describes Kamila's struggle to adapt to the Taliban after taking control of Kabul, the city where she spent her entire life living. As the Taliban enact new rules in regards to the education and clothing styles of women, the women of Kabul are forced to adapt or be killed. Kamila's father, mother, and two older brothers leav Amazingly powerful biography of Kamila Sidiqi, a young educated Afghan women, as told from the perspective of American journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. This non-fiction work describes Kamila's struggle to adapt to the Taliban after taking control of Kabul, the city where she spent her entire life living. As the Taliban enact new rules in regards to the education and clothing styles of women, the women of Kabul are forced to adapt or be killed. Kamila's father, mother, and two older brothers leave Kabul in search of work leaving Kamila to care for her five younger sisters and younger brother. She takes substantial risks to start her own sewing business, even bargaining with male shop owners to carry her clothing which was strictly forbidden by the Taliban. A heartwarming story of the power of love, determination, and dedication to rise above even the most difficult of circumstances.

  19. 5 out of 5

    JoAnn/QuAppelle

    I was not thrilled with it........it was strangely unsatisfying. I have seen it referred to as a fictional biography, which I think is odd. My library had it in biography and others had it in fiction. Who knows? I thought the writing was pretty bad. Disconnected, lots of inconsistencies, poor explanations of the facts. I wonder who edited this? The author is a journalist and I do not think any newspaper editor would have approved of the "product". It sure did not live up to some of the promotiona I was not thrilled with it........it was strangely unsatisfying. I have seen it referred to as a fictional biography, which I think is odd. My library had it in biography and others had it in fiction. Who knows? I thought the writing was pretty bad. Disconnected, lots of inconsistencies, poor explanations of the facts. I wonder who edited this? The author is a journalist and I do not think any newspaper editor would have approved of the "product". It sure did not live up to some of the promotional things I have read about it. These sisters were making huge numbers of elaborate dresses, gown, and suits ----yet the people of Kabul were starving. There was never any explanation of how anyone afforded these items of clothing. I got more insight into life in Afghanistan from A Cup of Friendship.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Great Book Study

    It's not riveting writing, but it's a decent human interest story. I agree it is an important story that needed to be told. My review here: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana It's not riveting writing, but it's a decent human interest story. I agree it is an important story that needed to be told. My review here: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

  21. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    As I began this book I had some of the same questions others have had about whether this is entirely a true story and for what reading audience it is intended. A few years ago I read I AM MALALA, and this book definitely doesn’t measure up to that one in the writing nor in the story told. However, once I got into the book I enjoyed it. And once again I am amazed at what has happened in Afghanistan. And I am afraid the U.S. hasn’t helped matters any.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Kim

    I am writing about this book not because I loved it (I liked it enough, but I loved the topic), but because it's an important book. Just like Imperial life in Emerald City, this book should be read by as many people as possible (should be required reading in the diplomatic corps). Kamila Sidiqi comes from a family of eleven children. She is the third oldest, with an older sister and brother. Having blessed with an educated father who believed in education for all his children, she had big dreams. I am writing about this book not because I loved it (I liked it enough, but I loved the topic), but because it's an important book. Just like Imperial life in Emerald City, this book should be read by as many people as possible (should be required reading in the diplomatic corps). Kamila Sidiqi comes from a family of eleven children. She is the third oldest, with an older sister and brother. Having blessed with an educated father who believed in education for all his children, she had big dreams. She hoped to become a professor in Dari or literature one day. All this suddenly came to an end when Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. Almost immediately, brutal laws were instituted and enforced. Some of them are as follows: "Accused thieves had one hand and one foot cut off, and their severed limbs hung from posts on street corners as a warning to others." Everything that they consider a distraction from worship was banned - such as music, movies, television, card playing, chess, and kite flying. Creating a representation of the human figure was forbidden. Wearing western clothing or hair cut was forbidden. After a short grace period, the length of men's beard must meet Taliban's requirement of longer than a fist length. Shaving was forbidden. Modernity or anything associated with it was banned. Women will stay at home. Women are not permitted to work. Women must wear the chadri in public. Women must travel with a male family chaperone. Women cannot speak to men they are not related to. Women were banned from schools, offices, etc. Women were beaten on the streets if they didn't wear chadri (a face covering that left 2 inches by 3 1/2 inches opening for the eyes), if they were out and about alone without a male family chaperone, if their wrist peeked out, if they were caught talking to a male that wasn't their relative, etc. Kamila's family didn't have to worry about money, initially. Her father had made wise investments, and they were able to make it. However, as time passed and the adult males of the family (Kamila's father and older brother) were forced to leave their home due to Taliban threats, and the household finances were more and more difficult to meet. As desperation grew, Kamila talked her oldest and married sister, Malika, into teaching her how to sew. Though Malika had a university degree and had been a teacher previously, she was now helping her husband make ends meet with her sewing. Kamila noticed that even under Taliban rule, some women run businesses did well (such as female doctors treating female patients) as long as they heeded no contact with males rule. Kamila decided that they could start sewing clothes to sell at various markets nearby. The only danger lay in Kamila having to talk to the shopkeepers (mostly men) about her wares. In the beginning, Kamila and her sisters only sold a handful of pieces, but soon, the word spread about her work ethic, craftsmanship, quality of clothes, etc. brought in more and more work. And Kamila's enterprise spread from mouth-to-mouth and more and more desperate women came to Kamila's house to beg for work. The remarkable thing about Kamila is that she didn't turn anyone away. In fact, she created sewing school to take in as many women and girls as possible and to train them. Her business grew and she was able to give desperate women a chance to contribute and help their desperate families. Kamila's secret to success was that she knew the dangers and she adhere to most of Taliban's rules. This was a recipe to her success. She dealt with most women. She didn't "educate" the girls, but taught them sewing, which would serve the girls well as adults in helping out their families. Even some Taliban soldiers and commanders sent their daughters to Kamila's sewing school and ordered wedding dresses and others from her. So, she kept the big rules, but she broke what she considered less severe ones - like talking to males not related to her. Though she minimized the risks of her sisters and those who worked for her, she took great personal risks - she went to the markets to negotiate, sometimes every day, and she later went on to work for a UN agency against her family's wishes. Through it all, she held her family together, she provided for hundreds of people, and she made a difference in lives of others. What I've learned from this books is that under most draconian rule, we are resilient enough to find ways not only to survive, but thrive. Then I wondered if there were any Kamila Sidiqi's in North Korea, in Syria, in Gaza, etc. and I wondered if there'd be anyone there to write their stories.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    What would you do if you were banned from public places, including schools? Could you spend years hiding at home while your country is at war? This happens to Kamila Sadiqi, a teenager in Afghanistan when the Taliban takes control. She had studied to become a teacher, even earning a prestigious teaching certificate after completing a two-year program. She had planned to go to a coed university for two more years to receive her bachelor’s degree, and hoped to become a professor, perhaps even teac What would you do if you were banned from public places, including schools? Could you spend years hiding at home while your country is at war? This happens to Kamila Sadiqi, a teenager in Afghanistan when the Taliban takes control. She had studied to become a teacher, even earning a prestigious teaching certificate after completing a two-year program. She had planned to go to a coed university for two more years to receive her bachelor’s degree, and hoped to become a professor, perhaps even teaching literature some day. Then her world changes. She adapts her skills to survive and, despite the oppression, Kamila learns how to find glimpses of happiness for herself and others. When the Taliban takes control of Kabul, women are commanded to stay home. They can no longer work or attend school. They cannot talk to men who aren’t relatives. Furthermore, they have to be covered in public, wearing full chadri’s and peeking through webbed eye slits. This halts Kamila’s plans for further education. Seven of her parents’ 11 children still live at home in Khair Khana, including five girls, ages 6 to 17. After her parents and a brother flee the city, Kamila learns how to sew to support her family. She and her sisters start a dressmaking business that supports not only their family, but also the families of 100 neighborhood women who join their workforce. Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon beads together an inspiring true story which shows that these women are not victims, but heroines who hold their country together, like the stitches that hold together their beautiful handiwork. The former ABC news reporter made her first of several trips to Afghanistan in 2005. “What I found in Kabul,” she writes in the book’s introduction, “was a sisterhood unlike any I had ever seen before, marked by empathy, laughter, courage, curiosity about the world, and above all a passion for work.” Lemmon earned an MBA at Harvard, where she wrote about women entrepreneurs in war zones including Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Rwanda. She continues to speak regularly on women’s economic issues. It is easy to identify with Kamila and her sisters, who never give up hope for a brighter future for Afghanistan. At one point, Kabulis get Titanic fever. They smuggle VCR tapes into their homes and pass them from relative to relative. The girls love the song “My Heart Will Go On,” and get caught up in the romance of Rose and Jack, whose happiness is impossible. The boys relate, too, and get floppy-in-the-front “Leo looks.” Soldiers shave the boys’ heads and arrest barbers who give these haircuts, but the Titanic craze continues, as does the sewing enterprise in the Sadiqi home. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana reminds me how precious is our freedom to learn and to teach. Students complain about the drudgery of schoolwork, and teachers alike look forward to spring breaks and summer vacations. Perhaps we all need to reconsider how blessed we are to have these freedoms, and the ability to make a difference. Kamila’s freedom ends in an unexpected moment and this thrusts her into a situation where she draws on every ounce of resiliency and courage to survive and even thrive. Could I do the same? Could my daughters, or my students? How about you? I wonder whose light could shine as brightly as Kamila’s as she inspires the women around her in war-torn Afghanistan to believe that a better future is possible.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    Though it seemed to advertise itself as a serious work of journalism, this book raised more questions than it answered and weaved a story that, while potentially important and inspiring, was made up of unbelievable, disjointed, and shallow scenes. Who was this book for? It seemed that it either insulted readers who wanted a real picture of women-led entrepreneurial endeavors in Afghanistan under the Taliban or it was written for an audience that only wanted to say it had read about such situatio Though it seemed to advertise itself as a serious work of journalism, this book raised more questions than it answered and weaved a story that, while potentially important and inspiring, was made up of unbelievable, disjointed, and shallow scenes. Who was this book for? It seemed that it either insulted readers who wanted a real picture of women-led entrepreneurial endeavors in Afghanistan under the Taliban or it was written for an audience that only wanted to say it had read about such situations. The book painted a serendipitous picture of Kamila's business, which contradicts logic, given that she created and grew it during an oppressive, dangerous time in war-torn Afghanistan. In short, the book was missing important details that might have made it a realistic read despite the unsophisticated writing style. If the main characters are anywhere near as heroic, dedicated, and conscientious as the author implies, this book failed to do them justice. While this story was probably one worth telling, the execution lacked respect for Kamila and co.'s likely difficulties and an acknowledgment of the reader's desire to understand the many factors that influenced the daily lives of the characters and the course of the development of the business/Kamila's eventual calling as a community leader. Some questions that were never answered through the course of this very short book included: How did Kamila learn to sew in only one lesson? What was the floorplan of the house the women worked out of when sisters had to "find" each other and tell about events that happened within the house when all were present? Why did Kamila's older sister only begin to help the supposed family business after being asked when she lived in the same house? Who was wearing the dresses produced, and who was buying them? (Were women allowed to wear what they wished during family celebrations? How did they afford them/were only wealthy women buying them when jobs were so scarce?) How were materials so effortlessly obtained? Did no snags in the execution of the business ever occur--did the workers never make mistakes, have to be fired, or botch an order? What happened to the business after Kamila moved on (did it disintegrate, was it carried on by the other employees, or something else?)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marilyn

    The subject of this story— how a young woman bravely faces the dangers in her home town, and helps other women, during the Taliban’s reign of terror, — is important. Unfortunately, the story needs a stronger writer. The key characters, Kamila, Malika, And their brother Rahim, are so weakly developed, it’s hard to believe the author spent any time with them at all. Or that they actually exist. Much of the book reads like a who/what/when/where non-fiction reporting of what happened in the city as The subject of this story— how a young woman bravely faces the dangers in her home town, and helps other women, during the Taliban’s reign of terror, — is important. Unfortunately, the story needs a stronger writer. The key characters, Kamila, Malika, And their brother Rahim, are so weakly developed, it’s hard to believe the author spent any time with them at all. Or that they actually exist. Much of the book reads like a who/what/when/where non-fiction reporting of what happened in the city as in a news account. In fact, about half of the book is a recounting of Afghanistan news stories found in major newspapers. Since the purpose of the book is to share one woman’s ability to survive and thrive, my expectation was to read about this woman- the dressmaker. But the writer’s tone contains no emotional pull or character development to help me know or embrace her. Rather, it is detached with simple declarative sentences about The Taliban, about dress making and about traveling dangers that are repeated over and over again. There were also puzzling disconnects in the story. The author opens with Kamila’s boredom to find something to do, but never explains how she’s able to learn to not only sew in a day but develop skills to sew a dress that’s marketable in less than a day (not plausible !) nor does she explain why women who suddenly have no income, live in poverty, and are forced to stay inside their homes unless they wear the chakra and are with a male relative, would have a need or money to buy dresses. At times I felt I was reading a children’s grade level book because the sentence structure, vocabulary, and comprehension level was so basic. In sum, There are quite a few well written books out there about Afghanistan and its people during this time period. This isn’t one of them.

  26. 5 out of 5

    MAP

    A serious disappointment after having wanted to read this for almost 2 years. The book has a YA feel -- everything is simple. The sentence structure is simple, the story arch (what do you call it with non-fiction books?) is simple, the language is simple, and many stories within the arch feel like they must have been pared down or combined or something. The entirety of the book is "She did this. They did that. They went here. She said this. Her sister said that." You never feel you get to KNOW a A serious disappointment after having wanted to read this for almost 2 years. The book has a YA feel -- everything is simple. The sentence structure is simple, the story arch (what do you call it with non-fiction books?) is simple, the language is simple, and many stories within the arch feel like they must have been pared down or combined or something. The entirety of the book is "She did this. They did that. They went here. She said this. Her sister said that." You never feel you get to KNOW any of the women involved. It feels like you're observing cardboard cutouts of the real women woodenly reenacting their lives. You never get any sense of inspiration, or danger, or the women's motives, or emotions, or anything like that. Frankly, it's hard to believe the author spent as much time with them and yet has so little to convey. And every once in a while, you'll read something bizarre like "If Kamila was startled, she didn't show it." Hold up, author. Didn't you get this story from Kamila? What do you mean, "if she was startled?" How do you not know? Are you trying to say, "Kamila was startled, but she made a point not to show it," or something like that? Anyway, I'm sure it's a very inspiring story, but this book does a piss-poor job of conveying any of it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn

    What a remarkable woman Kamila Sidiqi is. Her brother's quote at the end the story says it all: "I always hoped that someone would come from a foreign country and tell my sister's story. She was so brave at such a difficult time, and she did so much for all of us - not just my own family but so many other families in Khair Khana and around Kabul. And she is the reason that all of us got educated. I wanted you to know how glad I am that her story will finally be told." What a remarkable woman Kamila Sidiqi is. Her brother's quote at the end the story says it all: "I always hoped that someone would come from a foreign country and tell my sister's story. She was so brave at such a difficult time, and she did so much for all of us - not just my own family but so many other families in Khair Khana and around Kabul. And she is the reason that all of us got educated. I wanted you to know how glad I am that her story will finally be told."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gina *loves sunshine*

    If you have never read about afghan women, this is a good book to start with. It is a short simple read with a good story and sheds a bit of light on life for woman under the Taliban. A story of how one woman emerged a successful business woman and helped many others earn a living and learn. But it is a light account and doesn't go into much detail. Not much emotional attachment to the characters. It's not near the terrifying account that say - A thousand splendid suns was!! ....so 3 stars! If you have never read about afghan women, this is a good book to start with. It is a short simple read with a good story and sheds a bit of light on life for woman under the Taliban. A story of how one woman emerged a successful business woman and helped many others earn a living and learn. But it is a light account and doesn't go into much detail. Not much emotional attachment to the characters. It's not near the terrifying account that say - A thousand splendid suns was!! ....so 3 stars!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Divya

    Brilliant read - takes you through life in the times of Taliban, through the life of one family. This book reads like fiction, but is a true account of how Kamila and her sisters built their business out of the necessities that arose from the rules of the regime. From learning to sew to building a school cum tailoring establishment, Kamila ensures the income and safety of her family through her stubborn resolve.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    KATHERINE ALERT! Book about strong women in Afghanistan starting their own business to support their families during the Taliban rule. Amazing how woman manage to survive and thrive even during opressive times.

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