Book Talks: Opportunities for Learning and Dialogue

Author Mary Littrell shares her experiences from her recent book talk at the Wheelwright Museum.

My public talk for Embroidering within Boundaries: Afghan Women Creating a Future drew a full house last Sunday in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Following a week of three horrific attacks in Afghanistan, Santa Feans seemed eager to hear a message of hope for women who have endured thirty years of war.

Our book tells the story of Rangina Hamidi and Kandahar Treasure, the organization she founded to create a link between income generation from khamak embroidery and enhancing women’s value in their households.

Giving book talks offers audiences an occasion to hear about the day-to-day life of women in a country with which the U.S. has been involved for decades, but about which many know so little. In turn, I gain an opportunity to engage with audiences in expanding on topics important to them.


Book Talk
Everyday life in Kandahar, Afghanistan from Embroidering within Boundaries. Photo by © Paula Lerner/Aurora Photos.

Following the most recent lecture, audience members asked about the risks women assumed by working outside the home in this deeply patriarchal society. Having heard that Pashtun men are bound by honor to provide for their families, an audience member questioned whether men are receptive to women contributing a significant portion of household income. Another audience member asked how conservative Muslim men feel when women walk to work unaccompanied by the requisite male. Still others asked about the safety of the Kandahar Treasure workshop, given recent bombings.

Redefining BoundariesI often conclude book talks by recounting my afternoons sitting on the floor in the women’s homes, drinking tea, and exchanging life stories. Amidst the women’s personal accounts of wartime tragedy, they repeatedly turned the conversations to the importance of Kandahar Treasure in their lives. As one artisan assessed, “For us women, Khamak embroidery is our biggest asset in life.”

–Mary Littrell


Learn more about the lives of these remarkable women in Afghanistan, Pashtun culture, khamak embroidery, and Kandahar Treasure. Embroidering within Boundaries is available at ClothRoads, your favorite Local Bookstore, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Available only from ClothRoads is the gorgeous Collector’s Edition of Embroidering within Boundaries. An elegant khamak square, embroidered by the women of Kandahar Treasure, graces the cloth cover; an outer cover of parchment protects the book, allowing the embroidery to shine through.

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