Chattykathy, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by Chattykathy)
This is a wonderfully layered account of life in ancient times, from a female's perspective. It takes no time before we are captured by Dinah's spirit, her resilience, and her journey into a mature woman of many talents, grace and integrity.
Coming from a non-religious background, I found it intriguing, and also enlightening to entertain what the biblical times would have been like for a woman. Definitely a must read for any female who is looking to strengthen herself within.
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chep33, September 4, 2011 (view all comments by chep33)
A really beautiful story full of rich details describing the way women in nomadic cultures once lived together and depended upon one another for childbirth, the raising of children and in caring for their tribes. Told from the perspective of a midwife, she recounts her stories of the red tent - a place women were exiled during the three days of the new moon in order for them to have their menstruation away from the men and the place in which women went to birth their children. The red tent was a place of bonding and communing with each other. It's a very beautiful concept when compared with the way we largely ignore our bodies cycles in today's society. I was fascinated by the simple fact that a woman's body was once aligned to the moon and to the women she surrounded herself with and I was a little saddened that we've grown so out of alignment with our natural connections to the earth.
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aschulte, May 3, 2010 (view all comments by aschulte)
Whether it is the age of the Book of Genesis or the 21st century, women are still looked to as the breeders of society. No matter the millennium, a woman’s role remains constant: to ensure that life continues to the next generation. With its strong female voice, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a powerful, moving book that illustrates this concept of life.
Diamant’s novel takes the reader back into biblical times to examine the historical female perspective. Dinah, the main character, is a daughter of four mothers. The novel consists of Dinah’s recollections, first of her mothers’ stories and then her own. As Dinah and her four mothers, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah, undergo their monthly cycles, they band together in the red tent, a place where they learn to treasure the processes of womanhood. To understand Dinah’s life journey in and out of the red tent, hearing the experiences of her many mothers is vital. Dinah states, “If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully” (2). This book emphasizes that women have a past and possess more substance than beauty. Acknowledging the topics the topics debated within the novel such as menstruation, love, and lust, The Red Tent is centered towards a female audience. Any woman would enjoy Diamant’s gripping story that focuses on Dinah’s self discovery and the importance of appreciating life’s natural order.
Diamant’s use of culture and setting creates a strong emphasis on the roles of women. In biblical times, a woman’s sole duty was that of caretaker. Simply put, women existed to breed, cook, and provide care. The women in Dinah’s family did just that. Between Dinah’s mother, Leah, and her four aunts, 13 children were born. Specifically, Leah gave birth to eight of the 13. Set in the Promised Land, near Canaan and Egypt, these women lived through times void of birth control or obstetric technology. As early as age 14, a woman was to be wed and impregnated. Bearing children was both an honor and a duty to one’s tribe. Most women were pleased to make this contribution. Being pregnant was a comforting constant. Dinah tells, “Many babies were born, and most survived. Leah wore the mantle of the great mother, seemingly always pregnant or nursing” (45). Life was always being reborn.
Another significant role of the women of this era was to keep history alive. Without a written record, much of a woman’s life would be lost if not for their tradition of oral storytelling. Dinah, as the sole daughter of Jacob, heard every story and memorable event. To keep her mothers’ and their mothers’ memories alive, it was her mission to pass on the tales to the next generation. Dinah says, “It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing” (3). Dinah as a woman not only guarantees that life will continue, but through her memories ensures that the past is a part of the future. The history of these women is magnified by the book’s structure. The setup of the novel as a recollection is important to illustrate the significance of remembering one’s ancestors. Through the setting and time period, Diamant raises the question of the red tent’s importance both traditionally and religiously.
Diamant calmly discusses the issues of religion and gender. Her novel is a successful blend of historical facts and fiction as her insights into the biblical world examine the impact religion and tradition had upon daily life. According to Dinah, the red tent is a religious ceremony that women are honored to partake in. Leah states, “In the red tent, where days pass like a gentle stream, as the gift of Innana courses through us, cleansing the body of last month’s death, preparing the body to receive the new month’s life, women give thanks” (158). Although the red tent most likely derived from the men’s desire to avoid any association with female practices, the repeated customs of the red tent slowly evolved into a religious event. Any woman that refused to enter the red tent would be treated as an abomination. To this day, confusion exists as to whether a red tent was specified within the bible, or whether its origin appeared out of necessity. Diamant’s discussion of this predicament makes one question what is truly derived from the bible or what has become a part of religion due to frequent occurrence.
The use of language and culture allows the reader to picture oneself within the tale while still allowing one to decipher her own personal values. Diamant sets the scene with old world language and native words and names such as Shalem and Hamor, who were respectively Dinah’s beloved and her father-in-law. Diamant creates two intersecting tales: one of Dinah’s life thousands of years ago and one of today’s women. The simplicity of a woman’s life back then starkly contrasts the diversity of a woman’s world today. As a modern female, many more lifestyle choices are available, but the fundamental need to shoulder the responsibility of childbearing remains. Surprisingly enough, woman’s natural instincts have not evolved too much. The roles of one time period to another resemble each other even given the changes in life that have taken place over the centuries.
Diamant showcases a strong analysis of women of the ages. As the core of one’s female priorities, little has changed. Her book, The Red Tent, expresses the importance of self discovery and the appreciation of womanhood. This novel is an addicting read for women, young to old, examining life’s purpose.
jewel33, January 20, 2010 (view all comments by jewel33)
This book brings your old Sunday School stories to life. You will find yourself putting yourself into the shoes of Ruth, Naomi and their contemporaries and wondering what it would have been like to live their lives. It is a must-read for women!
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Picador USA -
by The Los Angeles Times,
"By giving a voice to Dinah...the novel has struck a chord with women who may have felt left out of biblical history."
by Philadelphia Inquirer,
" A novel well worth reading!...very rich and fulfilling."
by Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor,
"Diamant vividly conjures up the ancient world of caravans, shepherds, farmers, midwives, slaves, and artisans...her Dinah is a compelling narrator that has timeless resonance."
by The Boston Globe,
"An intense, vivid novel...It is tempting to say that The Red Tent is what the Bible would be like if it had been written by women, but only Diamant could have given it such sweep and grace."
by Publishers Weekly,
"[A] vivid evocation of the world of Old Testament women....Diamant succeeds admirably."
by James Carroll, author of An American Requiem,
"The oldest story of all could never seem more original, more true."
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