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

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  14,557 ratings  ·  2,292 reviews
Kamila Sidiqi's life changed overnight when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. After her father and brother were forced to flee, she became the sole breadwinner for her five siblings. Banned from school, confined to her home, and armed only with determination, she picked up a needle and thread to create a thriving business that saved their lives.

The Dressmaker of K
Paperback, 253 pages
Published March 20th 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published March 15th 2011)
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Jane Buttery This is an inspiring book about the courage of Kamila and her sisters during the Taliban era. The author spent time with the seamstresses and saw how …moreThis is an inspiring book about the courage of Kamila and her sisters during the Taliban era. The author spent time with the seamstresses and saw how the need to survive pushed them into business and into helping their whole community. I could not put it down!(less)

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Will Byrnes
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 no
I had a hard time with this one. Perhaps it was due to listening instead of reading a physical copy? 🤷🏼‍♀️ I didn’t like the narration 😬 and the story was just kinda boring 🥱. I would set my sleep timer on my audiobook for 30 min. and fall asleep with 5-10 minutes. While I can appreciate what these women did to survive during 9-11 Taliban times, there wasn’t anything really exciting in the story. I guess I need a little more intensity or drama or something. 🤔
Apr 18, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Apr 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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.

Feb 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Karen Ng
Mar 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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

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
Jun 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mrs. Nicole
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
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
I was not thrilled with 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
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
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jennifer Kim
Aug 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Sep 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Mar 07, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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."
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!! 3 stars!
Sep 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Diane S ☔
Apr 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Monroe Public Lib...: The Dressmaker 1 2 Jan 02, 2019 05:18PM  
Grinnell's Reader...: Book Questions: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana 1 6 Jun 27, 2016 04:02PM  
Play Book Tag: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana 3 stars 4 17 Apr 04, 2016 04:05PM  
What are some of the implausible aspects of this book to you? 4 66 Jan 04, 2016 06:51AM  
2017 Reading Chal...: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana 1 13 Feb 12, 2015 05:00PM  
Clean Reads: Is it clean? 1 39 Jun 23, 2014 02:31PM  
Classic Readers : Kamila and Her Sisters 1 7 Sep 09, 2013 02:06PM  

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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.” 4 likes
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