Book Review: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

The stories I’ve attempted to read in the past that detailed the lives of Afgan women (or similar stories), were just that—attempts. After slogging through long descriptions of the political climate in the Middle East with no end in sight, and failing to identify with any of the characters, I usually stopped halfway through most of such books.

Enter: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. While based on true events, this book draws you into the difficult and dangerous lives of Kamila and her family as they find ways to survive during a Taliban occupation. In particular, women will enjoy this book because they will find that Afgan women, at their core, are just like us. They would do anything for their families, they love to read (!!), and yes, they do sweat while wearing the chadri (covering required by Taliban). I have wondered in the past if women wearing the chadri have a mysterious ability to stay cool and not sweat.

Lemmon’s book reads like an adventure, with plenty of stops along the way to share a specific event. Although readers will find themselves identifying with these women, it’s obvious that the struggles Kamila and her family face are a far cry from our American liberties. They basically live under house arrest, prohibited from earning wages outside the home. They find solace in their work (making dresses inside their homes), and in each other’s company.

I particularly enjoyed this book because although it portrays the ugly realities of these women, it also points to the hope and community these women share.