Monday, August 27, 2012

Title: The Dressmake of Khair Khana
Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Genre: non-fiction

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is an excellent and inspiring book! Afghanistan didn't become a household name in the United States until 2001 when U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban regime. This book tells what happened to Afghanistan when the Taliban took over in the mid-1990s. Afghanistan had been a Westernized, modern society from the 1950s until the mid-1990s. Women were allowed to wear a small head covering that could show their face and some of their hair. They were also allowed to wear Western clothes and pursue higher education and work outside the home. Once the Taliban took over, everything changed. Women had to wear the chadri, a full-length garment that covered them from head to toe. A wrist shown in public by mistake could mean prison or death. When women went out in public, they had to be accompanied by a male family member. A female shopper could not inquire after a male shopkeeper's family even if the two had known each other for decades. Work for women was forbidden as was music and dancing.
Women that were used to being busy and productive chafed under the restrictive regime. In this book we meet Kamila Sidiqi and her sisters who use their sewing skills to earn money for their family. The great part of this story is that Sidiqi sisters shared their sewing skills with women in their neighborhood; they never turned a woman away who  was need of work. Strict rules were set so as to not attract the attention of the Taliban. Kamila's neighborhood work soon led to a job with a foreign aid agency which helped her reach more of her fellow countrywomen.
I stayed up past my bedtime to finish this book and it was worth it. A must-read for any woman (or man) concerned with the issued that affect his or her fellow human beings. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Title: A Working Theory of Love
Author: Scott Hutchins
Genre: fiction

I really don't know what to say about this book; it's not one I would have chosen to read but it was sent to me as a galley through Penguin's First Flight galley program.

Neill Bassett Jr. lives in San Francisco and works at at 3-employee startup company although he has no programming or IT experience. This startup, Amiante, is trying to create the world's first intelligent computer (a computer with emotions, humor, self awareness, etc.). Neill is involved because Amiante is giving the computer a "voice" using Neill's dead father's journals. On top of this eccentric project, Neill ponders why his marriage failed and tries to date two women at once and screws that up while uncovering a family secret.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Title: City of Women
Author: David R. Gillham
Genre: historical fiction, WWII

It took me about 100 pages to get into this book. I wasn't sure how I felt about the protagonist, Sigrid Schroder. She is aloof to her neighbors and coworkers as she maintains the facade of a good German soldier's wife, but she is really carrying on a passionate affair while her husband is fighting the Russians. Stuck in a loveless marriage and living with a rampaging mother-in-law, Sigrid easily falls into the passionate embrace of the mysterious Egon. But Egon has secrets of his own and with the roundups of Jews in Berlin, Sigrid is soon entangled in the underground network of saving Jewish lives.
I did enjoy reading Gillham's depiction of Berlin during World War II. As an American I'm used to books and movies from the American/Allied Forces view (the view of Berlin being bombed). Gillham did meticulous research on the everyday lives of Berliners and it shows