"" Writer's Wanderings: Books For The Road - The Red Tent

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Books For The Road - The Red Tent

"My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father, Jacob, and the celebrated chronicle of Joseph, my brother." So begins Dinah's narrative of The Red Tent, written by Anita Diamant.

Dinah is the daughter of Leah and Jacob mentioned in Genesis 34 in the Bible. The scriptures tell of a rape and the avenging actions of her brothers but Diamant has taken her story and said, "What if." What if Dinah had really been in love with her accused rapist? What if he wanted her as his bride and she willingly fell into his arms?

In the telling of Dinah's story, Diamant takes the reader into the everyday lives of the women of the period. Dinah's mothers/aunts, Rachel, Leah her birth mother, Bilhah, and Silpah, the wives of Jacob, her father, raise their daughter in the ways they were taught passing on to her their knowledge of gods and goddesses, of midwifery, of spinning and weaving and all of the other necessary household activities left to the women. Diamant has been criticized for taking liberties with the Bible story but her work of fiction explores the customs and beliefs of the times. The Red Tent is central to the women's lives. It is where they can gather, away from the men, during menstrual cycles and birthing of children and develop the strong relationships that helped them survive the harshness of life.

My Kindle edition included an interview with the author, some comments on how she researched, and discussion questions that were helpful for our book club. If your copy doesn't have that, go to your library and find some of the discussion books written about The Red Tent. The background information is very interesting and informative.

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