Your Reviewer

Your Reviewer
Lori Lavender Luz

& guest reviewers

Stuff We've Reviewed

Previously on All Thumbs

Looking for something?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Book review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

HarperCollins graciously sent me  a review copy of Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's documentary novel The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.* The author, a former ABC News producer turned MBA student, sought to tell the story of a female entrepreneur in a war zone. She came upon Kamela, a teenager and one of nine sisters trying to eke out a living in war-torn Kabul, Afghanistan for a decade beginning in 1996, with the rise of the Taliban.
"Women will stay at home. Women are not permitted to work. Women must wear the chadri [burqa] in public." -- Taliban edicts.
Women were at risk for their lives  if they dared go to school, go to work, go to market, go out in public without a mahram (male relative serving as chaperone) -- and sometimes even with one. Women could be beaten if they accidentally showed a sliver of skin. The Taliban had made life in Khair Khana, a neighborhood in Kabul, a nightmare.

Kamela, with the support and assistance of her sisters and brothers, winds up creating a sewing business in their living room that not only provides clothing for the people of Kabul, but also eventually offers training for the women of Khair Khana in a trade that can be performed at home. Thanks to Kamela's business acumen, vision, wits, commitment and compassion, countless lives were altered in a positive way.

Kamela has since gone on to work for a UN agency and was invited to take part in an MBA program at Thunderbird School of Global Management (AZ). In 2005 she was asked by Condoleezza Rice to speak at the US Global Leadership Campaign. Not a shrinking violet, she.

The story of this brave and determined woman is impressive. The story telling, I felt, was more that of a reporter than a novelist. While reading, I was too aware that the author was trying to be respectful and protective of her subjects, who had taken her into their family. The story therefore lost some of its edge.

Rationally, the book did well at helping me understand the facts of Afghanistan's  situation and the direness of the sisters' predicament. But emotionally? I knew I should be feeling angst about the sisters' plight, yet I could not muster the fear, trepidation, anxiety, and desperation that they must have felt. It fell a bit flat, sanitized. You read a book about a war-torn country, you expect an R-rating. This one's is barely PG-13.

Angelina Jolie vouches for the book, as does Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea). I give it more than one thumbs up, but not quite two. Here's a video about the book to further pique your interest.

Amazon* $15 harcover / $10 paperback / $12 Kindle
* affiliate link
Submitted by Lori

3 chiming in:

Lori said...

Sounds like a book I'll be picking up to read and passing on to my oldest.

monkey-toes said...

Looks like a really good book!

areyoukiddingme said...

It's too bad that the journalist let her profession take over her story telling abilities - it sounds like it could have been a great book. But I'm sure it's worth reading anyway...

Related Posts with Thumbnails