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Book Review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

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The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a non-fiction book which tells the story of a woman who started a successful dress making business under the Taliban in Afghanistan. Not only did Kamila Sadiqi provide honorable employment to her family and female community, but also a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak existence.

Kamila Sadiqi is an enterprising young woman. Fearless, independent and with a sharp mind, Kamila has to find a way to feed her family under Taliban ruled Afghanistan. All the males in Kamila’s family have either fled, died, or are too young to be of any concern to the Taliban, so she has to find a way to feed her six siblings.

Kamila starts her own stitching business, hiring local women who are not allowed to work unless they are under the stringent regulations, and the Taliban brutally enforces how and where women should work. Using her naturally given talents Kamila doesn’t only supply work and income for her family, but for the neighborhood, growing her business and inspiring others.

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is a quick read, interesting, and heartwarming book. While short, the book packages a strong story of perseverance, fighting against the odds, helping the community and entrepreneurship combined.

This is an inspiring story of courageous women who are in a dangerous zone without men. The males either had to go away, were imprisoned or died while women were forced to be confined to their homes, wear a chadri and had to have a male chaperon escort them around.

As someone who pays attention to the world around him and beyond the two oceans surrounding these United States, I knew about the oppressing situation in Afghanistan pre-9/11, but one aspect that escaped me was the one the author depicted very well. Besides the daily terror of not having any control over the small aspects of one’s life (like going to the market or leaving your yard), the sheer boredom and depression these women felt jumped off the pages.

The more I read the book, the more admiration I felt towards Ms. Sadiqi. Not only because of her business prowess, but also because she cared about her community and customers – something I feel we have lost on the U.S. Ms. Sadiqi provided honorable employment, quality products, and most importantly, a ray of hope to many women in an otherwise unforgiving world. The Talibs knew about her business but turned an eye from it due to her quality, working within the guidelines and contribution to Afghan society.

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