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Book Review: The Daughters of Kabani by Gayle Lemmon

The Daughters of Kobani

By Harriet Gross

This month’s book recommendation from Andrea Peskind Katz of  Great Thoughts, Great Readers:

The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

A Book About Role Models

Was Gayle Lemmon trying to make role models for American women when she wrote The Daughters of Kobani?  She doesn’t overtly say so.  But there are these clues:  First, her middle (maiden) name is Tzemach, marking the author as a daughter of Syria – elsewhere within it if not Kobani itself.  Second, her own father is traditional – enough so that he once asked her, as she reports in this first-person non-novel of real history: “Do you really think that women are as important as men?”

Well – she does!  And she might herself be as much a role model for American women as the Kobanis she writes about. “A Story of Rebellion, Courage and Justice” is her latest book’s cover description, placed atop left of a very tall figure. It might be a man as well as a woman, but we know it’s the latter! And below those words, standing so short next to the taller one, is a shadowy someone who could no more be a man than the man-in-the-moon, her long hair in sharp contrast to that other.  Could this be our author herself, or at the very least stand for her? As a teller of tales about women, she quickly answered the demand of the friend who summoned her to Syria with a single brief phone call: “Gayle, you must come here!”  And so she did.

Women in combat

What she saw when she got there was something that has been discussed, sometimes even debated, in our own not-too-long-ago American history, and remains a topic for today: Should women fight alongside men in wartime combat? Currently, ours do not.  But that is exactly what Gayle Tzemach Lemmon saw upon reaching Kobani. She saw women just like herself, fighting next to men, carrying weapons and using them just like the men, also willing to sacrifice their own lives rather than be captured.   Those women are The Daughters of Kobani, the stars of this first-person, non-fiction story.

Another author, Sebastian Junger, described this book’s author as,

“One of America’s premier storytellers, who has risked her life to research perhaps the most important subject of our own times: the empowerment of women and the establishment of a truly egalitarian society.”

Gayle T. Lemmon went to Kobani to see women fighting side by side with men against ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. She saw men who would kill, especially on the battlefield, and women who dared give what they consider the wrong answer to our writer’s father and his question of her: Yes – she really does think that women are as important as men, especially since she herself has seen such women in action…

A little about Kobani

Kobani is a city in northern Syria, just south of the Turkish border. Its indigenous people, the Kurds, share an ethnic background and language, and were more than willing to fight to keep things as they were, for they had been promised their own homeland after World War I – a false promise that never materialized. U.S. soldiers on the battlefield against Turkey are a part of our own nation’s recent history; this book also helps us understand  why American military men were fighting against an enemy so far from home. But this is not a book about them. 

It’s about the place that author Lemmon calls “the academy that trained a corps of leaders in urban warfare” with many women among them, telling their story of wanting more than the defeat of their own front-line enemies: their fight to change the perception of what women’s lives could be, and could accomplish, by expanding tradition.

A small book for a big subject

This is a relatively small book for a very large subject; the main text is just a few pages over 200.  But there’s a helpful guide to the story’s characters at the start, and at the end comes the author’s own epilogue, a welcome index, excellent explanatory notes for each of the 10 chapters, and a listing of further sources for additional reading.

This book, the third by New York Times best-selling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, also includes maps and photos that put her story into clearer focus.  It is now widely available in hardback from Penguin Press at $27.

Buy Your copy today! The Daughters of Kobani


About the author, Gayle Tzemach

The Daughters of Kobani

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield (2015) and The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (2011). She most recently published The Daughters of Kobani (2021).  Universal Studios is currently working on a major motion picture based on Ashley’s War.

Lemmon serves as an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She also works with private sector leadership roles in emerging technology and national security. She began writing about entrepreneurship in conflict and post-conflict zones while studying for her MBA at Harvard following a decade covering politics at the ABC News Political Unit. The World Bank, Harvard Business School, the Financial Times, Harvard Business Review and CNN, among others, published her work from Afghanistan, Rwanda, Liberia, Bosnia and beyond. Following MBA study, she led public policy analysis during the global financial crisis at the global investment firm PIMCO.

“Review by Harriet” 

harriet grossA proud native of Pittsburgh, PA, Harriet P. Gross worked as a full-time journalist in Chicago until moving to Dallas in 1980. Here, Harriet freelanced on special projects such as the text for Dallas Section, National Council of Women’s soon-to-be-published history book, in addition to writing book reviews and columns for a variety of publications. Today, Harriet’s “In My Mind’s I” column runs weekly in the Texas Jewish Post.  She’s won writing awards from the Press Club of Dallas, American Jewish Press Association, National Federation of Press Women, Illinois Woman’s Press Association and  Press Women of Texas. Additionally, she was  listed in five Who’s Who publications. 

Interested in a REVIEW BY HARRIET? Contact her at 214-691-8840 or via email today!




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