"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.
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Submitted by Lori