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Book Corner January 2012

 

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Harper Collins Publishers 2011

 

Reviewed by Katie Dodds            

This New York Times bestseller captivates and inspires readers as we journey with five sisters who, by starting a tailoring business, save their family’s life and many of their neighbors.  One stitch at a time they faced obstacles few can imagine from hiding from Taliban soldiers, shutting out the earsplitting sound of bombs, sewing without electricity and risking their lives by creating an intricate network of vendors and customers.  The main character, Kamila, is a young teenager when her family splits up for safety during the war in Kabul, Afghanistan. She fears for not only her family but for the uncertain future of her beloved country.  What can she, a young teenager, do under the strict restrictions of the Taliban? Her deep faith and conviction that “I put my life in the hands of Allah and I am sure he will keep me safe,” sees her through this fascinating story.  The author was brave as well, following Kamila for three years gaining the trust and respect of this remarkable family.  Kamila not only succeeds in her business, she eventually shakes hands with Condelezza Rice who reads about her efforts with Mercy Corps and other international women’s organizations. 

 I was impressed that this young person found ways to work in a war zone with all the rules, regulations and danger of being found breaking them. One example of this is the policy that all Afghan women must wear the chadri-the full length veil that completely covers the woman including making it very difficult to see through narrow slits in the fabric.  Such an anonymous way of moving through the dangerous streets holds some irony in that the chadri is both repressive and in some cases, it protected the identity of our main character.  To me it is a more poignant symbol of what separates the women from others.  For Kamila’s very first dress order, she smiles under her chadri and “the storekeeper returned the smile he could not see.”

For more information about the author see:
www.gaylelemmon.com