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

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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  7,744 ratings  ·  1,425 reviews
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...more
Hardcover, 258 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by Harper (first published January 1st 2011)
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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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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 at all. 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 t...more
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...more
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...more
Megan
Apr 13, 2013 Megan rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Megan by: Jamie Cook, Tanya Rogers
Shelves: bookgroup
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...more
Karen
Sep 07, 2012 Karen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Suze
Dec 16, 2011 Suze rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!
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...more
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

...more
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...more
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...more
Jody
This is the story of Kamila Sidiqi, a new college graduate when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan and banned women from all arenas of public life. Unable to work outside the home, and after her father and brother are forced to flee Kabul, Kamila organizes her large family into a dressmaking business. The business flourishes, and provides support for Kamila's family as well as for many young women whom she employs. Kamila's story is impressive. Her goal to help other Afghani women never waver...more
Nancy Kennedy
We have come to view the women of Afghanistan as oppressed victims of the Taliban -- which they are -- but they are not just that, writes Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. They are heroes who under the harshest of circumstances have carved out a niche for themselves as entrepreneurs and activists. They have no choice, if they and their families are going to survive.

Until I read this story of Kamela, a young woman struggling to stay alive in Taliban-occupied Kabul, I had no idea of what that oppression meant...more
Lisa
In the 1990's the women of Afghanistan were experiencing the freedom to pursue an education and a career until the Taliban seized control of Kabul. The Muslim extremists required women to stay home, and not to hold a job or attend school. If a woman had to leave her home, she had to be covered completely and be accompanied by a male relative. Any woman out of her home not complying with this demand would be beaten or imprisoned.

This is a photo taken in Khair Khana, so you see what covered means:...more
Joanne
Lemmon is a journalist / MBA student intrigued by female entrepreneurship in war zones. In Afghanistan she learned about Kamila Sidiqi, who had become a dressmaker when the Taliban came to Kabul and demanded that women stop working, drop out of school, stay indoors, and stay veiled. The economy of the city shut down. Kamila, the oldest female at home, determined to find a way to support her family while obeying Taliban rules, so began a dressmaking business. The business also evolved into a tail...more
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...more
Michael Gerald Dealino
Everyone loves a great story with a happy ending. I guess.

I was halfway through this book when super typhoon Yolanda smashed the Visayas with record-breaking winds that left a trail of death and destruction in its wake. So finally finishing this book took longer because I had to do my part in helping the victims. Helping people in need was a balm that soothed a sad soul, and so was finishing this book.

It is the inspiring story of a woman who lived in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan who refused to just...more
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."
Judy
Jul 10, 2012 Judy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: for people who like books about inspirational women
What to do? Five sisters in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in need of work but forbidden to leave their home without a male escort.This memoir tells how these sisters created their dressmaking business and helped hundreds of women in the process. An inspirational book, quick read one of my favorites I have read this year.
Randi
Incredible story showcasing the courage of Afghanistan women during the Taliban rule.
Susan
This is a true account of a young woman during the Taliban take over was able to open up her own business. She and her older sister were both educated, but the Taliban had many restrictions for women. It was very dangerous to be a woman during the Taliban rule. She learned to sew and make dresses for woman. She went to the local bazaar with her brother. Because, she was not allowed to speak to any man, she needed a chaperone to do any kind of business. The shop owners loved her work. Because the...more
Melissa
"What I found in Kabul was a sisterhood unlike any I had seen before, marked by empathy, laughter, courage, curiosity about the world, and above all passion for work." From the Introduction

The Dressmakers of Khair Khana is a beautifully written story about five sisters surviving the Taliban take over in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through vivid emotional details, the reader is transported to the oppressive fanatical rule of the Taliban. Five educated sisters, made independent by a respectful father, are...more
DubaiReader
More of a long report than a full book.

There is no doubt that Kamilla Sidiqi is an amazing woman who courageously supported her family as well as many other members of the community during the Taliban regime. However, the book lacks depth and feels more like an extended report than the characters telling their story from their hearts. The author has written many articles for prestigious publications in the US, but that is how this book read, rather than as a full length biography.

Having said tha...more
Angela
I really like Kamila -- what a passionate, courageous, creative woman! In fact, all the women and men in this book were wonderful. And I'm so glad we have their story. I just didn't like how it was written. A little simplistic. I would have liked more detail and understanding of their feelings at the time.

The author definitely mentions time and again that things were very dangerous and even gives a few examples of random women getting beaten for no good reason. But she told us things were dange...more
Judy
When the Taliban seized control of Kabul in 1996, Kamila Sidiqi's life completely changed. Instead of becoming a teacher, the nineteen year old and her sisters were forced to remain at home and they, like the other women in Kabul, could only appear in public completely covered and accompanied by a male relative. After her father and older brother were forced to flee Kabul, Kamila and her five sisters were left on their own in the family home. Kamila used a loophole in the Tabiban law that allowe...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Clean Reads: Is it clean? 1 19 Jun 23, 2014 02:31PM  
What are some of the implausible aspects of this book to you? 3 51 Jan 07, 2014 02:06PM  
Classic Readers : Kamila and Her Sisters 1 6 Sep 09, 2013 02:06PM  
Recommendations of fiction stories of women in Afghanistan? 3 39 Oct 03, 2012 04:04AM  
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“Brave young women complete heroic acts everyday, with no one bearing witness. This was a chance to even the ledger, to share one small story the made the difference between starvation and survival for the families whose lives it changed. I wanted to pull the curtain back for readers on a place foreigners know more for its rocket attacks and roadside bombs than its countless quiet feats of courage. And to introduce them to the young women like Kamila Sidiqi who will go on. No matter what.” 3 likes
“wanted to know what war was like for those who had been left behind: the women who managed to keep going even as their world fell apart.” 0 likes
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