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The Red Tent - 20th Anniversary Edition: A Novel Paperback – August 21, 2007
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The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider's look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah--all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery.
"Like any sisters who live together and share a husband, my mother and aunties spun a sticky web of loyalties and grudges," Anita Diamant writes in the voice of Dinah. "They traded secrets like bracelets, and these were handed down to me the only surviving girl. They told me things I was too young to hear. They held my face between their hands and made me swear to remember." Remembering women's earthy stories and passionate history is indeed the theme of this magnificent book. In fact, it's been said that The Red Tent is what the Bible might have been had it been written by God's daughters, instead of her sons. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Skillfully interweaving biblical tales with events and characters of her own invention, Diamant's (Living a Jewish Life, HarperCollins, 1991) sweeping first novel re-creates the life of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, from her birth and happy childhood in Mesopotamia through her years in Canaan and death in Egypt. When Dinah reaches puberty and enters the Red Tent (the place women visit to give birth or have their monthly periods), her mother and Jacob's three other wives initiate her into the religious and sexual practices of the tribe. Diamant sympathetically describes Dinah's doomed relationship with Shalem, son of a ruler of Shechem, and his brutal death at the hands of her brothers. Following the events in Canaan, a pregnant Dinah travels to Egypt, where she becomes a noted midwife. Diamant has written a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating portrait of a fascinating woman and the life she might have lived. Recommended for all public libraries.
-?Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Many thoughtful reviews have already been posted. I will affirm that it was wonderful to read this story, told from the point of view of the women. In those times, women were treated as chattel and the only power they had was that of producing sons. They claimed that power, and it was fascinating. I also liked the portrayal of the community of women and what they brought to the family economy, I hope that part is "true."
I love the historical fiction quality of the book. The alternative perspectives from Biblical literalism is a relief. The alternate perspective on Dinah's "rape" is worthy of contemplation. In today's world, there are "honor killings" that sometimes occur when women have sex outside of marriage, whether it's consensual or rape. We have a modern context for seeing women who don't have self determination, whose marriages are arranged, or consent still only comes with a price. It's not that hard to see the possibility of an alternate reality for Dinah. It certainly makes for a great story. I am fascinated by the tensions and textures created by the encounters with people of differing beliefs, the women practicing the old ways, those who don't, the paganism, those following the God of Abraham, and then the Egyptians. It is interesting to follow how those beliefs color their lives and how they interact with people of differing beliefs. One can also experience that in the reviews here on Amazon!
I do not find the story anti-male or anti-Bible. When one recalls that men had all the power, then tragic use of power is on the men. But other aspects of power appear in the encounters between the shepherd and the king, and Dinah amongst the Egyptians, etc. The tensions of religion and culture and social position within the tribe and beyond are part of the story.
I've tried to write without spoilers. It's a great book. One can be a person of faith without being insulted by a single syllable in this book. Criticisms from 2000 are interesting, but I think that time is on the side of deep appreciation for The Red Tent.