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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, has written an engaging nonfiction look at the lives of women living under the Taliban.

You might have received the March 14 issue of Newsweek in your mailbox late last week or today. The cover story on Hillary Clinton? Written by Lemmon. Both are changing the role of women around the world, as are all of the women featured in the “150 Women Who Shake the World” feature article. (Thanks to EarlyWord for bringing this to my attention!)

Teens will be amazed by the courage and determination of Kamela Sediqi, the subject of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. There is an excerpt available on the Daily Beast website.

LEMMON, Gayle Tzemach. The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe. 288p. HarperCollins. 2011. Tr $24.99. ISBN 978-0-06-173237-9. LC number unavailable.  Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Adult/High School–Recognizing that stories about war most often center on men, Lemmon made her first of many trips to Afghanistan in 2005 to investigate what war was like for the women left behind. There the former journalist met the remarkable Kamela Sediqi. She received her teaching certificate at about the same time as the Taliban took control of the country and as a result of the Taliban’s beliefs that women stay at home, not work, and not be educated or educate, she was precluded from pursuing her dream of teaching. Knowing that she had to do something to support her large family after her parents and eldest brother fled the city, she turned to sewing. Her religion taught that she had a duty to support as many people as possible, and her business quickly grew. Lemmon chronicles the growth of the business, the many women involved, and the great risks Sediqi took to keep the business thriving. The stories of the women who came together to keep their families from starving are compelling. The final pages cover the fall of the Taliban after September 11 and the terrifying offensive the Afghanis then had to face. Lemmon does an outstanding job of conveying the powerful sisterhood of Sediqi’s team as well as the women’s incredible passion for work in the midst of unspeakable brutality and danger. Understanding that Sediqi has known nothing but war her entire life, this inspiring and powerful story of hope and resiliency will make a lasting impression on the reader.–Jane Ritter, Mill Valley School District, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.


  1. John Sexton says:

    When the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, it brutally imposed a 7th Century ethos on a 20th Century country and created a real life dystopia. The impact on women was devastating and the courageous resourcefulness denomstrated in this book are amazing. Having students read and compare Kamela Sediqui’s inspiring determination to survive and provide for her family with characters such as Katniss in Hunger Games or Nailer in Ship Breaker would be a great way to connect dystopian fiction with the struggles some families actually must endure.

  2. Mark Flowers says:

    I’m sensing a theme here: a couple days ago we had “When We Were Strangers,” about which Angela said:

    “Honestly, it is hard to imagine how she would have been successful without her talent for embroidery and sewing, part of what makes this story special.”

    Now we have this book, and last week we had “Sew!”–teaching teens how to sew. I don’t have a theory on how they go together–I just noticed it.