Meet Gayle Lemmon


Gayle Lemmon

We are so lucky to have Gayle Lemmon here to answer a few questions about her new memoir called” THE DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA.”  Gayle’s book is on sale this week, and is sure to be a huge hit with anyone interested in the plight of women around the world.

I recently finished reading your important book about women and Afghanistan. I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy. It will be so informative and personal for my readers to meet you through this Q&A.  

How did you become aware of the pressing conditions and atrocities against women in Afghanistan?


The Dressmaker of Khair Khana

I became interested in writing about women entrepreneurs in war zones in 2005 because I thought it was an under-reported story. When  I met women in Afghanistan I realized the impression the world had of these victims shrouded in a burqa was not the reality – yes, women had struggled and been victims, but they were also leading families and communities through impossible times. I became driven to bring the story I saw to readers.
How did you meet Kamila Sidiqi, the young woman featured in your memoir? Are you still in contact with Kamila? 

Kamila Sidiqi

Kamila Sidiqi

I met Kamila during my first reporting trip to Kabul in 2005. I was looking for entrepreneurs for a Financial Times piece and realized immediately she was the real thing. When she told me she got her start in business under the Taliban, I became intrigued and eager to learn more. And the more I learned, the more I realized her story embodied so many others about these young women who became breadwinners during years in which they weren’t even supposed to be on the streets. I became determined to bring her story to readers. It has been a privilege to get to know Kamila and her family over the years, and I am still in touch with them today.
How has your journalism background helped you get the most out of this amazing story? And how many languages are you fluent in and what are they?

Journalism teaches you to get to facts and to sort through information quickly. It also forces you to never forget that people are at the center of your story. I think all of that helped me to bring this powerful story to readers. I am fluent in Spanish, German, and French and conversant in Dari, which is one of Afghanistan’s national languages — it is very close to Farsi.

Do you believe the affairs of women in Afghanistan have become better or worsened lately?
I believe women have been taking control of their own destiny and arguing for their own rights on their own behalf. Civil society has flourished in Afghanistan in the past nine years.  The situation overall, however, has become harder for women as many believe that in advance of talks with a segment of the Taliban, the Karzai government has grown increasingly accommodating to conservative elements in the country who do not believe in the equal opportunity clauses which are part of the Afghan Constitution. What is critical now, women leaders say,  is that women win a seat at whatever peace negotiations do occur.
Thank you so much Gayle!  We will watch Kamila and look forward to your next writing project.

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