Gayle is the deputy director of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Women and Foreign Policy program. Prior to joining the Council, Ms. Lemmon covered public policy and emerging markets for the global investment firm PIMCO, after working for nearly a decade as a journalist with the ABC News Political Unit and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Gayle has reported on entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict regions for the Financial Times, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, the Daily Beast, and Christian Science Monitor, along with Ms. Magazine, Bloomberg, Politico and the HuffingtonPost. She has appeared on NBC News, National Public Radio and on cable outlets including MSNBC, and has published papers on women and business for the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, Harvard Business School, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. Gayle earned a BA in journalism summa cum laude from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she received the 2006 Dean’s Award for her work on women’s entrepreneurship. She speaks Spanish, German, and French and is conversant in Dari. A former Fulbright scholar and Robert Bosch Foundation fellow, she serves on the board of the International Center for Research on Women.
'Dressmaker': The next big Afghanistan book?
By Carol Memmott, USA TODAY The turbulent history of Afghanistan has inspired blockbuster novels —Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner— and best-selling true stories like Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea.
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."