Our staff readers have prepared this list of discussion questions for those reading The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. We hope you will pick up this inspiring book and join the conversation!
Discussion Questions for The Dressmaker of Khair Khana
1. Kamila’s goal was to be a teacher – she studied and earned a prestigious certificate. But then the Taliban took over Kabul and banned women from nearly all public places, including schools. How do you think women would react if something like this happened in your hometown or country?
2. Residents of Kabul “watched helplessly as the Taliban began reshaping the cosmopolitan capital according to their Utopian vision of seventh-century Islam. Almost immediately they instituted a brutal – and effective – system of law and order. Then they banned everything they regarded as a distraction from the duty of worship: music…movies, television…even kite flying.” What if your country banned all “distraction?” How would the loss of music, television, or your hobbies affect your life?
3. Throughout the book, Kamila and the women take many risks in order to help their families. While it is easy to think of them as victims under such oppressive circumstances, what we really see when we look more closely is strength, courage, resiliency and their strong bonds of family and friendship. Did Kamila’s experiences alter your perception of these women and their roles in society? Can you imagine taking the risks Kamila took to help her family?
4. Kamila relies heavily on her faith as a source of guidance through many critical points in her life. What role does faith play in your personal life?
5. “’Every time I think things are bad, something happens, and we get through it,’ Kamila thought to herself. ‘Father was right; we just have to keep doing our part and everything will be okay. God is watching out for us.’” Is there a mantra you use in your daily life to keep your head on straight and get through hard times? Do you agree with this?
6. In addition to the strong bonds of friendship formed by the women in this story, Kamila’s relationships with her father and brother, and those she cultivates throughout her journey, play an important role in her life and, ultimately, in her successful business. Did her relationships reinforce or alter your interpretation of male roles in Afghan society?
7. The Sidiqi family never completely abandoned their home in Khair Khana, even when war and the economy changed their life so greatly. If you picture yourself in the same situation, what would you do? And do you know of any who had to abound their hometown?
8. Kamila was on her way to a training session through the Women’s Community Forum when her bus ride was interrupted by a Talib soldier, questioning why the women were traveling without their mahram (male relative escort). The outcome would be devastating if the angry Talib found out about their jobs. Kamila bravely stood up and reasoned with the soldier, later explaining to others, “If I didn’t speak to him like a brother, he would have been sure we were guilty of doing something wrong, which we were not.” Did Kamila’s way of speaking to men throughout her experiences play a role in her success? How does the way you speak affect the way people perceive you?
9. “They were just kids trying to survive another year of war together with no parents to watch over them. All that protected them right now was their faith – and the green metal gate that kept the outside world at bay.” What did the green gate represent to you as a reoccurring visual throughout the book?
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