USA Today: Book Review

March 15, 2011

Now, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon (Harper, $24.99) may be poised for similar success.
Out today, the book is backed by a perfect blend of publishing elements — a remarkable Afghan heroine, a high-profile writer, bookseller support and a marketing campaign with a celebrity roster.
Lemmon, 37, is a former ABC News journalist who is now deputy director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. She tells the true story of Kamila Sidiqi, who in 1996, at age 19, began a clandestine dressmaking business to support her family and dozens of neighbors after the Taliban seized control of Kabul. Women were forced to quit their jobs and stay off the streets, effectively turning them into prisoners in their own homes.
“This story happens to be set against the most extreme of backdrops — Taliban-era Afghanistan — but it’s a universal story that just as easily could have been set in the U.S. during the Civil War or the U.K. during World War II,” says Lemmon, whose profile of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her support for women’s global issues — “The Hillary Doctrine” — was last week’s cover story for Newsweek.
Early praise for Dressmaker includes book jacket blurbs from Mortenson, Daily Beast/Newsweek editor in chief Tina Brown and actress Angelina Jolie, who recently financed a school for girls in Afghanistan.

HarperCollins is promoting the book by spreading the word among the military, through book clubs, mommy blogs and the entrepreneurial world of finance.
“The book is terrific and I think it will do really well,” says Becky Milner, owner of Vintage Books, a store in Vancouver, Wash., who says customers are hungry for stories about places like Afghanistan and the Middle East.

“It’s an incredible, visceral and emotional story,” says Julia Cheiffetz, senior editor at HarperCollins. “But we also have an author who has the chops and the political expertise to go out into the world and talk about women in war, women in business and empowering girls in a more substantial way.”
Lemmon, who has visited Afghanistan six times, hopes Kamila’s story increases economic opportunities for women there.
“Once we see these women as resources to be invested in,” she says, “it will change the conversation and change the world.”

– 3/15/2011