LA Times: Discoveries Book Review

March 20, 2011

Kamela Sediqi was not yet 20 when the Taliban took over in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1996. When her father, a military man under former strongman Najibullah (who was killed by the Taliban), moved out of Kabul, he left Sediqi in charge of her sisters and younger brother. The Taliban issued their edicts: Women were to stay at home, they were not permitted to work, and they were forced to wear the face-covering chadri in public. In an effort to support her family and fight the boredom, Sediqi and her sisters began to sew dresses and sell them to shopkeepers.

The risk was enormous — just being on the street alone or speaking to male shopkeepers, much less selling the garments, could mean beating, imprisonment, even death. But the business grew. Soon she employed 34 women and taught sewing classes in her home. Orders poured in, some of them from the wives of Taliban leaders who remained in power until 2001’s American-led invasion. Sediqi’s business has continued to grow and she now advises female entrepreneurs. Like Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin’s “Three Cups of Tea,” and Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s “The Dressmaker of Khair Khana” is pure inspiration. Like “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” it reveals in acute detail the anxiety of ordinary people trying to fold their lives around the whims and laws of abusive regimes.

Review By Susan Salter Reynolds | For the Los Angeles Times – 3/20/2011