What initially drew me into reading The Dressmaker of Khair Khana was the beautiful book cover and title. Call me superficial but yes, I am indeed guilty of judging many a book by its cover. But as I went on to read the summary on the inside of the book jacket, I found myself even more interested and so I began reading what is now one of the most memorable books I've ever read. The best part is, this is actually based on a true story.
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana takes you on the inspirational journey of a young woman by the name of Kamila as she allows her spirit and passion for helping others to overcome her fear of the Taliban, who have now invaded her hometown. Once a student and planning to be teacher, Kamila along with the other women in Khair Khana, Afghanistan, is now forced to abide by rules. Now females are not allowed to: attend school, walk outside without the presence of a "mahram" (male relative), or be caught not wearing a chadri or else they will suffer sever consequences. Although war and violence are not exactly strangers to Khair Khana, things have never been so oppressive for Kamila and her family, especially her bright and energetic sisters. Despite the dangers and with the help of her family and friends, Kamila comes up with a wonderful plan that will benefit not only her family but many other families. She will start her own dressmaking business and training workshops for the anxious young girls in the neighborhood who need both the extra income to help their families survive, and a much needed distraction from the depressing confinement of their now daily lives.
Benefits of Reading This Book:
- Enlightenment: This book is filled with all that is good about the human spirit. In hard times such as these with wars, natural disasters, poverty, and so on, it is extremely crucial to be reminded of how much the human spirit has and can endure and so this story makes one feel that if they just hold on to their dreams and try to focus on positive possibilities, maybe everything will be okay.
- Education: I hate to say it but there has been a lot of prejudice against people who look a certain way. It needs to be acknowledged that where there are bad people, there are also good people and it would be unfair to lump every single person of a certain background together. For example, one may hear about the Taliban and assume all Muslim men want to oppress women. However, in The Dressmaker of Khair Khana Kamila's father encourages his daughters' education and career goals.
I've seen the harrasment of a couple of young women of a similar background of Kamila, in the street, and I must admit that it really bothered me so much because this harrassment was obviously a result of ignorance. If people made the effort to truly educate themselves and find out more about the unfamiliar, even if it means reading this book, perhaps they would broaden their minds and such foolishness would be less likely to occur.
- Girl Power: As a woman, reading this made me exceptionally proud. Women who have their own businesses and thrive is inspiritional in itself. The ability to do so plus beat the odds in a male dominated society as well as putting your life in danger for such a cause, is an absolutely profound achievement. Even the former Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, praised our heroine.
- Importance of Family: I found myself to be particularly teary-eyed when it came to the family interaction amongst Kamila and her family. Her thirteen year old brother, Rahim, did all that he could to protect his sisters and played a crucial role in the success of his family's business by serving as their "mahram" on trips to the market to get underground orders from the shopkeepers. Malika, the eldest sister, was the one who taught the sisters everything to know about sewing and worked hard to help while being a wife and mother with a set of ill newborn twins. The Sidiqi family is indeed the epitome of a strong and loving family.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon does a great job in capturing the experiences, details, and conveying the feelings of all the characters in the book. I kept forgetting that it was Ms. Lemmon who wrote the book and not Kamila herself. Her passion for the subject shines.
Some other stories that I have read or seen with similar eye-opening lessons, and inspirational individuals are...
If you have read any of the books, seen any of the movies mentioned or are planning to read or have read Dressmaker of Khair Khana please feel free to share your thoughts.You can also mention any suggestions for the next "Words of Wisdom" blog!