The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
March 14, 2010 § 20 Comments
If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows the details of her mother’s life – without flinching or whining – the stronger the daughter.
The Red Tent is a book about women, all of them distinct from each other, all of them with their own strengths and flaws. The Red Tent is particularly about the life of one woman; Dinah of the Bible, daughter of Jacob and his first wife Leah. In this book, Anita Diamant gives a voice to Dinah, as she tells us the stories of her mothers, the four wives of Jacob; the story of how she grew up with a slew of brothers; the story of her dreams and love; and the story of pain and betrayal.
I don’t know much about the Bible, or its contents. So I’ve not heard of Dinah. But I have heard of Jacob, and his father Isaac, and his father Abram (Abraham?). From what I know, it is their stories that have been told and retold for so long, but that is not the case here in this book. In this book, we are given a look instead at the characters that surround these men: their wives and daughters.
So much of the book and its story was new to me. The rituals these women carry out when a girl reaches puberty; when a woman first becomes a man’s wife; when she brings forth life into the world. Everything is sacred, nothing is taken for granted. These women celebrate the fact that they are women, that they bleed, that they bear children and that they feel the pain of childbirth. They celebrate all that makes them women.
We have so many books these days that tell about how girls have been neglected, unwanted for generations and generations. But when Dinah was born of Leah, it was deemed “the birth of a birthgiver”, and this called for an extra month of celebration. It surprised me that there could have been a time when maternity was not frowned upon as a sign of female weakness, that pregnancy was something to celebrate, and girls were not looked at with contempt.
I enjoyed this book, particularly because it’s related to the Bible in some way. I’ve always been interested in stories like this, so if there are any good books out there that are along these lines, I’d love to hear about them from you.
* Note: I was initially still thinking if I should include this for the Women Unbound Challenge, seeing as how I’ve already completed the minimum number of books (I was planning to just read non-fiction for this challenge from here on), but I do think this is a good book that explores some parts of feminity and womanhood that are not found in many books. So yes, for the challenge it is then.