Sarah Bringhurst's Reviews > The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
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Jan 21, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: middle-east, feminism

The core of this book is one of those disturbing and troublesome stories in the Bible that we don't tend to talk about much--like the time Judah's widowed daughter-in-law got pregnant and he wanted to burn her alive, but then it turned out that he was the one who had impregnated her. Or the time Lot hospitably offered to give his virgin daughters to the mob of rapists outside his door. Or the time the nameless female actually is shoved outside to appease the mob of rapists, and ends up being raped to death and then dismembered.

Actually, none of the above stories appear in the Red Tent. It focuses on the story of Dinah, only daughter of Jacob. A Canaanite prince falls in love with her, sleeps with her, and asks her hand in marriage, offering Jacob any bride price he names. Jacob's sons deceitfully tell the prince that if he and all his household are circumcised, he can marry Dinah. Then, as they are sore and recovering from circumcision, Simeon and Levi go in and slaughter them all, and carry Dinah away with them. One can only imagine what Dinah must have felt about the whole thing, since her point of view is, of course, not mentioned in the Bible, though it gives plenty of airtime to her brothers' angry protestations about their honor.

Diamant does more than imagine what Dinah must have felt. She writes a novel about it, retelling the story of Jacob and his family from the point of view of the women who appear in it. The Red Tent of the title is the tent where they go to menstruate, to support each other as they give birth, and to pass on their stories to one another and their daughters. I know a lot of women for whom the idea of having a monthly girls-only slumber party and all this stuff about the bond of sisterhood really resonates. I'm not really one of them. I didn't want a whole gaggle of women around me when I gave birth, singing me songs; I just wanted my husband, and silence.

In fact, this book gave me a lot of feelings, because let's face it; the Old Testament is pretty horrifying if you read it from the point of view of the women. However, these women are strong and courageous, and do an amazing job of taking care of one another in a world that is extremely misogynist. There's also some great stuff about the complex religious world the early Israelites inhabited, and especially about their worship of the Queen of Heaven. And it's always interesting to read a familiar story from a different point of view. So yeah, worth a read if you have the fortitude. Kind of like the Old Testament, I guess.
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Reading Progress

January 21, 2014 – Shelved
January 21, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
February 25, 2014 – Started Reading
March 4, 2014 – Finished Reading
March 12, 2014 – Shelved as: middle-east
March 12, 2014 – Shelved as: feminism

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