Review- The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Kamila Sidiqi had just qualified as a teacher when the Taliban took control of Kabul, her city in 1996. With her parents and brother having been forced to leave Kabul, she is left as the sole breadwinner for herself and her five remaining siblings. With very limited options, she decides to start a dressmaking business, making clothes to sell in shops in bazaars in Kabul.

Initially enlisting the help of her married older sister to teach her how to sew, Kamila enlists her sisters, her youngest brother and eventually expands the business to incorporate other women desperate to earn money for their families and to establish a dressmaking school. All of this is done under Taliban rule, and as it eventuates with their knowledge and tacit approval.

The book is a biography, yet is written as a story/novel and simply flows- it is a very readable story. Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a journalist turned MBA student lived for extended periods in Kabul during periods of great unrest to research and tell this story. Her impetus was to tell the stories of women entrepreneurs who established businesses at a time when it was illegal for women to work outside the home. The difficulty was further compunded by the fact that many of the males of the household were soldiers away fighting or had been killed in the ongoing civil war.

It is an amazing story of life under the Taliban and how women coped with the myriad of restrictions imposed upon what was considered a cosmopolitan lifestyle. There are some lighter moments, especially when Titanic fever hits Kabul, or when Kamila and her sisters unwittingly make wedding dresses for a Taliban bride. It is a story of inspiration and courage, of how these women would risk so much to help their families.

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One thought on “Review- The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

  1. Delighted to hear and thanks for your review. Unsung heroines are all around us wherever we are in the world, and I hope that The Dressmaker is a reminder of the power each of us has to make things better for many.
    Very best,

    Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

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