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The Dressmaker of Khair Kahana    by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon order for
Dressmaker of Khair Kahana
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon has written a story about 'Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe'.

This is, indeed, a remarkable story. The dreaded and repressive government of the Taliban had occupied the city of Kabul for five years. Kamila Sidiqi has a teacher's degree an accomplishment in itself in Afghanistan but because of the Taliban's new ruling every woman was forced to wear the burqa and not venture outside without a man to chaperone her.

An educated woman would have great difficulty following the many and various rules imposed by the Taliban. But Kamila managed to start a dressmaking business in the home she shared with her five sisters and two brothers. Kamila and her younger brother visited local shops to sell their dresses and pantsuits.

The business mushroomed as more and more women heard of the house where a living could be made a hundred neighborhood women! Before long, the business had almost more orders than it could fill, including four wedding gowns in two days, to be sewed by hand! In the meantime, they lived with scarce food and even scarcer electricity. The garments had to be made by hand until Kamila could save enough money to buy more sewing machines, to take advantage of the brief periods when power was available.

The sisters' parents left Kabul in fear of their lives. The women of Afghanistan, who are often depicted as 'victims of war who deserve our sympathy rather than as resilient survivors who deserve our respect' should certainly be afforded that respect. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is a book worthy of all our attention. A story of such fortitude and bravery deserves notice and applause. Kamila received recognition when she addressed the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign's 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner.

Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's background includes extensive reporting on entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Rwanda. She has been published by many large newspapers as well as The World Bank and Harvard Business School. She does honor to the many women who have followed Kamila's footsteps.

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