Oh what a book! I love books about empowering women and this book is overwhelmingly inspiring. Run to read The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. When I received the book from Harper Collins and read the reviews from Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, and from Angelina Jolie, I knew I was in for a treat.
First, the credentials of the author- Gayle Tzemach Lemmon rocks! Gayle is the deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program. Prior to joining the Council, she was a journalist with the ABC News Political Unit and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” I am a news junkie so I was impressed with Gayle before I began the book and then loved the first page, “To All Those Women whose stories will never be told..”
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana is the story of a woman entrepreneur, Kamela, during Taliban rule in Afghanistan. It is a true story but reads like action packed fiction. Kamela and her sisters quickly create a cottage industry in their home and learn to support their family. Their dressmaking business grows immensely due to Kamela’s innate marketing ability. She soon hires numerous neighborhood women to work with them. All the while, she is completely covered, head to toe, when she goes out and can only go market her business with her younger brother as her escort.
“Driven by the need to earn money for their families and and loved ones when Kabul’s economy collapsed under the weight of war and mismanagement, they turned small openings into large opportunities and invented ways around the world. As women throughout the world always had, they found a way forward for the sake of their families.”
Kamela and her sisters were all in the midst of finishing their school educations when the Taliban took over. Another powerful theme in the book which resonated with me was their strong father.
“He would not distinguish between his sons and daughters when it came to the duties of the classroom. As he often told the eleven of them, “I look on all of you with one eye.” To him it was his highest obligation and a duty of his faith to educate his children so that they could share their knowledge and serve their communities.”
Their father often told them, “The pen is stronger than the sword.” and “Keep Studying.” When Kamela’s father recognizes that her dressmaking business was sustaining them and has become an industry unto itself, he says, “I want you to know I’m proud of you. I never for one moment doubted that you would be able to take care of our family and that you could do anything you set your mind to.” Imagine how the economies of the world would grow if all fathers’ had this attitude.
Yet another passage in the book that struck me was when Kamela realized that the women on the bus no longer discussed work or school. ‘Everyone seems to have become an entrepreneur.” “Now they only seemed to speak of marketing and business.” Aren’t women amazing? With the overwhelming need to make money, they figured out how to start businesses under the worst of circumstances.
This is an important book to read as it underscores hope even at a time when hope should not be present.
Harper Collins provided a review copy of this book for this post. All opinions are my own.
What are you reading and where are you going?