Sunday, May 1, 2011

CBR3-18: The Red Tent - Anna Diamant

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 -
This book is the book club pick for April/May.  It was suggested that we read the passage in the Bible that this book was based on first before starting the book.  I remember the basic story of Jacob and Esau and the many sons of Jacob, but it was good to have a refresher before jumping into this book.  I've never read a book based on an Old Testament book before.  I have read books based on passages in Revelations. 

Diamont stayed pretty true to the Genesis passages but embellished where the details were lacking.  I appreciated seeing how Dinah's life changed when she moved to Egypt versus how it was with her family.  The cultural practices and differences were highlighted even more.  I had forgotten how much idol worshping was part of life back then.  Also there was a strong enforcement of heritage and remembering where you can from back then as well. 

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