Monday, August 27, 2012
Title: The Dressmake of Khair Khana
Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
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.