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Anyone who merely glances at the news each day knows that Afghanistan, including Kabul, is a very dangerous place with increased bombings, corruption, political and economic insecurity. I have read many books dealing with both other cultures and current events.
The subject is the oppression of women world-wide and measures being taken to alleviate their suffering. Also, "The Blue Sweater" by Jacqueline Novogratz, was thoughtfully and carefully written and provided deep insights into the issues, success stories and limitations of the microfinance enterprises available to assist women world-wide.
View all 12 comments. Aug 23, Sarah rated it it was ok. A flawed book with the best of intentions The Taliban arrived in Kabul the day Kamila Sidiqi received her teaching certificate.
Shortly thereafter, the teenager became the unofficial head of a large household of younger siblings mostly female after her parents and teenage brother fled to safety in the countryside and Pakistan, respectively. The young women quickly adapted to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban on movements leaving the house only at certain times of day, always accompanied A flawed book with the best of intentions The Taliban arrived in Kabul the day Kamila Sidiqi received her teaching certificate.
The young women quickly adapted to the restrictions imposed by the Taliban on movements leaving the house only at certain times of day, always accompanied by a male relative escort, covered by a head to toe veil and women's working not allowed except for small domestic industry within the home.
But Kamila soon realised that she would need to think up something to support the family, so she started a dressmaking business with her siblings, soon putting many young women in the neighbourhood to work as well. Although the story is compelling, the book suffers from being poorly written and edited.
We get a series of vignettes, painted with detail, but not well. I would rather have had some transitional passages than to read about how someone reclined on a red floor cushion or tossed a thick braid over her shoulder. Some details are contradictory or don't seem realistic she learned to make a dress in one afternoon, the dress was able to be marketed, and she was able to instantly teach her sisters. The younger sisters are nearly interchangeable except for their job descriptions: The mother arrives back in Kabul, supposedly to stay, and quickly leaves again with no explanation.
Months or years pass and the reader is left confused about how old the sisters are now While I find the character of Kamila compelling I felt this book had a bit of a Polyanna attitude.
No one in the family had any apparent flaws, there were no arguments except for one time when Malika breathes deeply for a few minutes , and every decision made by Kamila, no matter how rash, turns out to be a good one. The explanation of the fall of Kabul to American occupation is rushed through, and certain phrases are repeated over and over "the men from Kandahar". I suspect the author was a little bit too in love with the family to write objectively. Also, this book could have been edited with a much heavier hand to delineate the timeline, clear up inconsistent detail, and eliminate some of the tired prose.
It is only because the story of Kamila and her sisters is so compelling that I finished the book at all. They deserved a better book than this one. View 1 comment. Aug 23, Jenni rated it it was ok Shelves: I was given this book as required reading at University of Florida, as a part of our "common reading" program where every Freshman receives the same book so that we share a common "intellectual experience".
Let me say two things: This book was well intended and cut a good message: The writing it I was given this book as required reading at University of Florida, as a part of our "common reading" program where every Freshman receives the same book so that we share a common "intellectual experience". The writing itself was trite. There was no character development whatsoever--the author never delved much into any emotional thoughts besides "Oh god, I'm scared to work because of the Taliban, but I must feed my family!!
Some of the phrases that she employed in the novel were literally laughable, stuff along the lines of going from memory here , 'Kamila was so glad that her sister had made it back okay from the market. She wanted desperately for her to be safe, and she was. The power of prayer and optimism had helped her through these tough times. I can only hope that things improve from here. Edit, a year later: I met the author of the book as well as the woman it was written about.
Great women. Nauseatingly trite book. Apr 13, Megan rated it it was ok Recommended to Megan by: Jamie Cook, Tanya Rogers. My reaction to this book was, "I should feel an emotional connection to these women and their situation, but I feel nothing. This book is the true story of women in Kabul during the Taliban terror.
Their lives were drastically changed as they were forced from their jobs, their schooling, and the streets, to live lives of house arrest. One woman risks a lot--her own life, her family's safety, to put together a dressmaking My reaction to this book was, "I should feel an emotional connection to these women and their situation, but I feel nothing. One woman risks a lot--her own life, her family's safety, to put together a dressmaking business in her home and teach other women skills that will help them to support their families.
I did enjoy the audible version; the narrator was great, and it was so nice to know how to pronounce all of those names and places I had been reading about. I decided that while the true story is a good one, that this journalist didn't do it justice.
There were huge gaps in the story--lots of detail in a chapter, and then huge pieces mentioned as an afterthought. It would be like your roommate telling you everything that happened to her for a semester, but neglecting to mention except in passing that she got married. Our bookgroup discussion was nearly unanimous on this--the author didn't do what she needed to to bring any emotive quality to the story.
On completion: It didn't take me very long to read this book, that is simply because I found it very interesting. In fact it won over browsing GR! When a book doesn't draw me, I usually find something else to do; I find all sorts of other things that have to be done. I do this unconsciously. This book I read in three days! What I liked about the book was that it provided a chance to experience life in Kabul under the Muzahideen, the Taliban and the bombing of Kabul after al Quaeda's terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in September Kamila lived through this all.
You are there with her. Reading this book inspires hope for Aghanistan. It shows, through one woman's experiences, the ingenuity and fighting spirit of the people. If she can suceed as she has, so can others. The prose style is clear and straightforward. This well serves the purpose of the book. Hopefully the excerpts below are adequate for you to judge for yourself.
The questions posed in the prologue are clearly answered. Kamila's life experiences, how she was raised by her father with his strong belief in the value of education, the trust he placed upon her, the hardship endured during these years and her inborn entrepreneurial talents shaped Kamila. All of these factors together made her the strong woman portrayed in this book, a woman fighting for her country.
It is very important this book was written. Kamila deserves to be known and admired. What she has done inspires hope. Typical, the minute I say that the focus of the book is upon the business aspect of Kamila's enterprise, the focus changes. We are know learning about the different girls sewing or attending the sewing school initiated by Kamila.
I like learning about their individual circumstances. When Mahnaz heard through a cousin's friend about Kamila and the girls her age who were sewing together just a block away, she had jumped at the opportunity to join them.
Two of her sisters, one of whom was determined to become a doctor when school was allowed again, quickly decided to come along once they heard how Mahnaz was enjoying herself. There are just all these women working together and talking and sharing stories. It's wonderful. Wearing chadri was the least of their problems. Kamila's enterprise and school was heaven to them. The Afghan youngsters, both the boys and the girls, were forced into adulthood over night. Their maturity is praiseworthy.
You miust read about Kamila's thirteen year-old brother Rahim! He was the sole male left in the house. This book begins with a prolgue explaining why the book was written. What questions did it aim to answer. This is in fact very important in that these intentions guide the path the book is to follow.
The author went to Afghanistan to write a report for the Financial Times to study the new generation of businesswomen who had emerged in the wake of Taliban takeover and to find for the Harvard School of Business a case study focused upn women entrepreneurs in Afghanistan. Kamila Sidigi was a women who through her own business saved her own sisters, helped many other Afghan women and helped her country.
What motivated Kamila to passionately fight for her country? This question too was to be answered. It is very important to keep the purpose of the book in mind when reading the book. The challenges Kamila faced to achieve her goals are revealing.
The book is about how Kamila achieved these goals and what actually motivated her. I will again provide an excerpt from the book. Dresses now hung from all sorts of unusual spaces, from doorframes and table corners to the backs of chairs. The front rooms of the family home had been transformed into a workshop that regularly ran fifteen hours a day at full capacity.
Chairs forming a U filled the living room so that classes could be taught in the center and the girls could see their classmates' work, though some young women still preferred to sew sitting cross-legged on the floor. Hurricane lamps lit the rectangular room from each corner, since sunlight faded out of the sitting area in the late morning.
When the dusk arrived, the girls Sometimes the focus on matters of business are made at the expense of getting to know the trials and tribulations of the girls. I still do not know all the names of Kamila's four sister who live and work with her in the tailoring business.
One name has yet to be mentioned! At the same time the book shows both how war intimately shapes women's lives and the resoucefullnes of which they are capable. I was wrong, confused or whatever.
I DO know the four sisters' names. I didn't think I should count in the older sister Malika! My error, not an omission from the book. There are however nine sisters. The four who do not live at home are not spoken of. I am a nut for keeping all the family members straight. The four unnamed sisters do NOT play a role in the story, so they need not be mentioned.
I am just curious where they are and what they are doing How do they fit in? This is intersting, absorbing and at the moment I judge it much, much better than Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns , which by the way I gave 5 stars.
Afghan history before and during the Taliban takeover in is more clearly presented, and yet the story about Kamila Sidiqi and her family is equally engaging. It reads like a story but it is a biography! You learn about different cultural groups predominant in differnt areas of the country, customes, clothing and foods specific to Afghan life. You come to understand how the Taliban arose. After the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in , masses of children were left orphans.
They were raised under the doctrine of the most strict Islamists. Sharia and purdah was the life they knew. They knew of nothing else. To understand where we stand today with Afghanistan you have to understand its past. You must also know that once in the s and s life was cosmopolitan. Under Mohammad Daoud Khan, Afghanistan was a republic, the king had been overthrown. Soon thereafter came the Soviets, then the Mujahideen, the civil war, the Taliban This history is well told. Clearly, precisely and engagingly - with relevance to the Sidigi family.
The book is about this family and the women who survived under the Taliban. They were educated women. Several were teachers with diplomas in hand. The book strives to show how they survived and from where they drew their strength to fight for a modern, free Afghanistan.
Free for women as well as men. An Afghanistan whers women may go to school, get the jobs they choose and wear the clothes of their choice. The last was actually the least important. Under the Taliban the women were left to their own resources.
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The men had to leave. Leave or die. It is fascinating and engaging and it is all true. Here follows a quote so you can judge for yourself if the subject matter and prose style fits you as much as it does me. This following concerns the women of the Sidigi family. There were nine girls in this family, only two boys. They had grown up in the capital long after Prime Minister Mohammad Daoud Khan had embraced the voluntary unveiling of his countrywomaen in the s.
King Amanullah Khan had attempted this reform unsuccessfully thirty years earlier, but it wasn't until , when the prime minister's own wife appeared at a national independence day celebration wearing a headscarf rather than the full chadri, that the change finally took hold. That one gesture stunded the crowd and marked a cultural turning point in the capital.
Kabul's next generation of women had gone on to become teachers, factory workers, doctors and civil servants; they went to work with their heads loosely covered and their faces exposed. Before today many had never had reason to wear or even own the full veils of their grandmothers' generation. Suddenly the tide had rturned again Now this is reading. I am not struggling at all. I am so glad I quit Mistress of the Art of Death.
I tried to like that, but I couldn't. View all 28 comments. So after spending hours searching for a free copy of this online, eventually having to pay 10 bucks to buy the e-book, and reading this in somewhat of a hurry for college -- turns out I didn't have to read it after all. This book really wasn't my cup of tea. And don't get me wrong; it's definitely not because of the subject matter. A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner are two of my most favourite books ever and they were also set around the same period of time and place.
An So after spending hours searching for a free copy of this online, eventually having to pay 10 bucks to buy the e-book, and reading this in somewhat of a hurry for college -- turns out I didn't have to read it after all. And the fact that this book is actually semi-biographical should make it more appealing to me, right? Because really, nothing much happened at all! It is literally - A bunch of women take up dressmaking.
The End. And I don't know, I guess I should have felt at least something for these women. Maybe it was the way it was written, but I really didn't. Meaning that this book felt a lot less real to me than the fiction books by Khaled Hosseini. View all 3 comments. Feb 11, Lynne rated it liked it. A poorly told yet interesting story about a family in Afghanistan after the Taliban came in.
The best part was the afterward. Aug 08, Melinda rated it really liked it Shelves: Just finished this book and am still processing the tale, the truths, the atrocities and their implications. A true story of a family of mostly women, and the changes they faced when the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan.
This story is extremely powerful and eye-opening A government change that forced women into near house-arrest, took away personal liberties and education, and the ability to earn a Wow.
A government change that forced women into near house-arrest, took away personal liberties and education, and the ability to earn a living.
I did feel at times that the book "glossed" over the events, realities and hardships experienced by these women and their families. I felt like we were only hearing how much this family accomplished and how much good they did in their community rather than how difficult and perilous this journey was for them.
And in saying that I'm not suggesting this book or the family were bragging - more that the author focused primarily on the positives rather than delving into the Taliban underbelly. And that's not a bad thing.
It was also refreshing to read a book about women and their achievements. It was lovely to hear about success and joy in a place where all we seem to see and hear in the media is hardship and brutality. The style of writing is simplistic, an easy read, not too deep or confusing. I liked the way this book forced you to think about the issues, and put yourself in their shoes - imagine how I would react if the Taliban or other came to my home and changed everything about the way I lived, worked, dressed.
Imagine how I would survive, help my family when all the doors seemed closed. Deep respect for these women of Kabul and thankful to author for bearing witness and sharing their story. Apr 27, Janet rated it it was ok Shelves: Read this in one sitting under the impression it was a work of non-fiction revealing little known truths of a burgeoning cottage industry and its subsequent hardships under Taliban rule.
At the conclusion of the book there's even a photo of the protagonist posing with Condoleeza Rice. That's why I was mightily confused to read the publisher's boilerplate disclaimer that all similarities to those either living or dead was completely unintentional as this was a creation of the author's imagination Read this in one sitting under the impression it was a work of non-fiction revealing little known truths of a burgeoning cottage industry and its subsequent hardships under Taliban rule.
That's why I was mightily confused to read the publisher's boilerplate disclaimer that all similarities to those either living or dead was completely unintentional as this was a creation of the author's imagination. I can forgive almost anything if the writing is good which this was not. A superficial treatment of a serious subject. Dumbed down to the point I wouldn't even recommend it to Young Adult readers.
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I just could not get interested in this book or connect with the characters, but appreciate the initiative of the Afghanistan women who began a sewing business in their home to survive the Taliban rule.
This non-fiction work came across as emotionless for me, and I am still confused as to who was purchasing all these clothes since everyone was so poor. I began skimming about mid-way so I may have missed something Perhaps my questions will be answered as the book is discussed next month at my lo I just could not get interested in this book or connect with the characters, but appreciate the initiative of the Afghanistan women who began a sewing business in their home to survive the Taliban rule.
I began skimming about mid-way so I may have missed something Perhaps my questions will be answered as the book is discussed next month at my local book club meeting. The author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, was an MBA student at Harvard Business School, when she yearned to do some research in a subject that mattered but which no one cared for much. That brought her to the topic of women entrepreneurship in war-torn Rwanda, and then to Afghanistan.
Her initial search efforts in Kabul raised no potential candidates. It was after a long hunt that she found the protagonist of this biography and this book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is her attempt to tell the story o The author, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, was an MBA student at Harvard Business School, when she yearned to do some research in a subject that mattered but which no one cared for much.
It was after a long hunt that she found the protagonist of this biography and this book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is her attempt to tell the story of that woman entrepreneur. Kamila Sadiqi was just returning home after receiving her diploma when she overheard many rumors about the Taliban's arrival at the outskirts of the city, fully intending to take control.
The past four years wasn't the safest period for Kamila and her sisters, but their father was every bit insistent that the girls be educated. He had grown up watching European women work side-by-side with men, and he wanted his girls and two boys to be educated and capable of looking after themselves and their family in any dire situation. But with the Taliban's arrival, a lot of avenues close up. Girls and women were forced to wear the chadri the full-length burkha with just a tiny latticed slit for them to see through ; they couldn't step out of their homes without a mahram , a male familial companion, and they weren't allowed to converse with any man who is not family.
That figuratively shut them in their own homes. Those who didn't follow the rules were beaten ruthlessly. Kamila's parents were originally from the north and her father had worked for the previous government. This made their lives even less safe, prompting her father, her mother, and finally one of her brothers to leave to the north. Only Kamila, her youngest brother and her sisters were left behind.
Perhaps the only aspect that I didn't understand was how these girls - of whom only one was married and living separately with her husband and children, and also happened to be pregnant with twins, and Kamila, the elder of the rest was herself just seventeen - were left behind by their family. It was not safe outside, the author has reiterated time and again. Kamila's father has also explained that the girls were safer at home, but the menfolk weren't, because they were either put in prisoner camps esp if they were found to have had worked for the previous government , or sent to the front lines to battle.
And it was dangerous to move the whole family together. But I felt it was even riskier to leave the girls home alone, since they could barely get out of the home at risk of being beaten or taken to jail, and their only mahram was a thirteen-year old boy, too young to take responsibility though Rahim proves to be so much more dependable, to be honest. Since their funds are running real low now, Kamila comes up with a really risky idea to start a tailoring business.
If she is caught, it can mean a lot of danger for herself, her mahram Rahim , the shopkeepers who place orders, and her sisters. But Kamila being as stubborn as she is, she goes ahead with her plan. After a few initial misgivings, her sisters, who have been feeling lacklustre from nothing to do, jump into the opportunity. But everyone was having the same thought - how long will this continue? Kamila is clearly a really strong woman, endowed with not just determination, but also a strong set of business skills that come in real handy and are even necessary.
Gayle writes a really inspiring account of this young woman's life and those of her hard-working sisters, especially her older sister - Malika. I spent page after page rooting for the girls, hoping that none of the terrible danger befalls them. I'm not going to spoil it for you by saying what happens - you should find it out.
While not one of the best biographies I've lately read on this topic, the story is no less inspirational. This is a fast and short read - only occasionally the writing disappointed me. One really sad consequence of the war in Afghanistan is the warped perspective that we have all developed as outsiders. Amidst all this din, the voices of the civilians actually stuck in the war have been very subdued. I've always wondered - how did the women feel about wearing the burkha? How did they accept the no-education-only-housework role?
Didn't they yearn for freedom, to be heard, accepted for who they were, loved? How did they settle into this kind of life? Probably the most revealing fact was that these women had never seen or even owned a burkha until the Taliban came by. Until then, they were quite adventurous women - who partied in stylish western wear, educated themselves to be doctors, teachers, etc, and were very very respected by men.
Mar 17, Karen Ng rated it really liked it Recommends it for: I read this book overnight This book drew me in right at the moment Gayle Lemmon landed in the airport and went into the bathroom to change into black all over and cover her hair and face I thought I knew Middle East enough already, until I read this book.
The author risked her own life traveling all the way to Kabul, to report a story about a woman who was strong and brave who sacrificed her safety to help out her family and other women in I read this book overnight The author risked her own life traveling all the way to Kabul, to report a story about a woman who was strong and brave who sacrificed her safety to help out her family and other women in need during the Taliban's rule in Kabul.
All women had to stay indoor, were required to cover themselves from head to toe, and could not talk to any men that are not their relatives. When her parents and brother left the girls in Kabul and moved elsewhere for safety, Kamila, the main character, started a dress making business at home to support her sisters, as well as all other women, who came asking for help. It was a very risky and dangerous thing to do, but she survived, and lives to tell the story, as well as carrying on her humanitarian work.
Oct 11, Mrs. Amazingly powerful biography of Kamila Sidiqi, a young educated Afghan women, as told from the perspective of American journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. This non-fiction work describes Kamila's struggle to adapt to the Taliban after taking control of Kabul, the city where she spent her entire life living.
As the Taliban enact new rules in regards to the education and clothing styles of women, the women of Kabul are forced to adapt or be killed. Kamila's father, mother, and two older brothers leav Amazingly powerful biography of Kamila Sidiqi, a young educated Afghan women, as told from the perspective of American journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.
Kamila's father, mother, and two older brothers leave Kabul in search of work leaving Kamila to care for her five younger sisters and younger brother. She takes substantial risks to start her own sewing business, even bargaining with male shop owners to carry her clothing which was strictly forbidden by the Taliban.
A heartwarming story of the power of love, determination, and dedication to rise above even the most difficult of circumstances. Jun 12, Eric Wright rated it it was amazing Shelves: I rarely read a book that creates such an impression that I continue to carry with me the vivid pictures for months, years.
This book is one such and it is true. It is an absolutely inspiring story of human triumph against difficulties that leave me with my jaw hanging open. Kamila Sidiqi's life was changed overnight when the Taliban took over Afghanistan.
Her parents and a brother had to flee. She was left as the sole breadwinner for her four sisters and one young brother. What could she do, co I rarely read a book that creates such an impression that I continue to carry with me the vivid pictures for months, years. What could she do, confined as a woman to her home compound, able to go abroad only with her young brother at times that would not conflict with Taliban patrols?
Kamila demonstrated incredible grit, determination and ingenuity. Through learning to sew and teaching others, she established a dressmaking concern that brought in what they needed to live Kamila became an marvelous entrepreneur ultimately tapped by the UN to help in their concerns. The story, though true, reads like a suspenseful thriller. One never knows when the Taliban will discover their enterprise or arrest her for her bazaar jaunts to sell dresses.
Jun 23, Suze rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: Reading a book like this makes me sit back and think about how lucky women are in this country. We are free to pursue our dreams. We can be whoever we want to be. We are even encouraged to educate ourselves to achieve success and enlighten our minds. In Afghanistan, that is most certainly not the case, at least not when this story takes place.
There is no limit to the admiration I feel for the women who have accomplished so much while being discouraged, threatened and jailed. Such courage I canno Reading a book like this makes me sit back and think about how lucky women are in this country. Such courage I cannot imagine. I am not surprised, though. I believe women always rise to the occasion. I point to the duration of WWII as an example. Even so, they never had to overcome the oppression that the Afghani women suffered.
I am just so in awe. This book is very inspirational. Every time I feel sorry for myself, I will pick it up and read it again. Thank you for risking so much to write this wonderful book, Ms. Highly recommended. I was not thrilled with it I have seen it referred to as a fictional biography, which I think is odd. My library had it in biography and others had it in fiction. Who knows? I thought the writing was pretty bad. Disconnected, lots of inconsistencies, poor explanations of the facts.
I wonder who edited this? The author is a journalist and I do not think any newspaper editor would have approved of the "product". It sure did not live up to some of the promotiona I was not thrilled with it It sure did not live up to some of the promotional things I have read about it.
These sisters were making huge numbers of elaborate dresses, gown, and suits yet the people of Kabul were starving. There was never any explanation of how anyone afforded these items of clothing.
I got more insight into life in Afghanistan from A Cup of Friendship. Jul 19, Great Book Study rated it liked it Shelves: It's not riveting writing, but it's a decent human interest story. I agree it is an important story that needed to be told. My review here: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. Aug 02, Jennifer Kim rated it really liked it. I am writing about this book not because I loved it I liked it enough, but I loved the topic , but because it's an important book. Just like Imperial life in Emerald City, this book should be read by as many people as possible should be required reading in the diplomatic corps.
Kamila Sidiqi comes from a family of eleven children. She is the third oldest, with an older sister and brother.