Review – The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

the_red_tentMy husband’s words found their mark, and I recalled something that Zilpah had told me when I was a child in the red tent, and far too young to understand her meaning. “We are all born of the same mother,” she said. After a lifetime, I knew that to be true.

The Red Tent

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is the story of Dinah, the one daughter of Jacob from the Bible who is only briefly mentioned in Genesis after her rape by the prince of Shechem.  Diamant takes this story and expands it, giving detail and depth to Dinah’s story and the story of all of the women she lives with.

This was a fascinating glimpse into a world that has all but been forgotten.  I have a little knowledge of this time period because I went through a little phase where I thought I would read the whole Bible.  I read Genesis through Leviticus (only 3 books) and pretty much gave up.  It gave me at least passing knowledge of what the Bible has to say about this time period.

Dinah, as the only daughter in her family, is the designated keeper of the stories.  While menstruating, the women isolate themselves in the red tent, resting and recooperating after a month of hard work.  There, the wives of Jacob tell their stories to Dinah and Dinah tells them to us, the reader.  Dinah’s mother Leah is strong-willed and the mother of the entire clan.  Her aunt Rachel is beautiful and kind, a midwife who eventually teaches Dinah her craft.  Zilpah is pious and stubborn.  Bilhah is also pious, but in a different way, she is also the quiet and shy mother.

For the most part, the story was excellent.  It kept me interested, other than a few slow parts, especially after the tragedy that occurs in Shechem.  Dinah’s opinion is slightly different from that the Bible portrays, and it was absolutely fascinating to go back after having read Dinah’s story and read the biblical account.

One thing I thought was particularly strong in this story was the depiction of the birth scenes and the midwives.  This book was recommended to me by my roommate, Werehousecat.  She is applying to med school to eventually become an OBGYN.  Someone recommended this book to her because of her interest in all things birth and mothering.  All her interest in the subject has definitely opened my eyes to the different opinions on birth out there.  There are thousands of years of knowledge that we are ignoring with all our modern medicine.  I’m not saying that modern medicine is completely wrong, but a combination of the knowledge of midwives of generations past and the knowledge we have now thanks to doctors and research is ideal.  When it is my turn to have some babies (not  anytime soon), I am definitely going to do my research.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in a) biblical times b) good stories c) midwives d) sweeping family dramas.


6 thoughts on “Review – The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

  1. It’s been some years since I read this, but I recall enjoying it. I like the idea of female togetherness and a time of rest during menstruation. How different from today, where we have products like “Playtex Sport,” so that women can stay super-active all month long.

  2. Your quote about birthing and how modern medicine ignores centuries of history reminds me of something someone said to me YESTERDAY about education! interesting…
    I really enjoyed The Red Tent for all those reasons you recommend.

  3. I have been wanting to read this, I haven’t gotten to it yet though. Someone just mentioned it to me after I posted my review of My Little Red Book, a book on women’s accounts of their first periods. It is fabulous. This looks like a god read, I need to pick it up!

  4. […] The Red Tent – Anita Diamant  – 88% Kitchen – Banana Yoshimoto – 98% Malinche – Laura Esquivel – 65% Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe – 89% Fear of Flying – Erica Jong –  45% Beneath My Mother’s Feet – Amjed Qamar – 88% Kindred – Octavia Butler – 95% Neon Vernacular – Yusef Komunyakaa  –  97% […]

  5. A great inspiration for what is slowly becoming a modern tradition – moonlodges, women’s sharing circles, a modern Red Tent. A little too biblical for my taste, but absolutely beautiful. Would highly recommend.

  6. It is very important that men read more distaff accounts of day to day life. This gives a view of what could and did happen in every life. The Bible is full of man stories. I have always wondered why God would have been so prejudiced. She is so good in many other ways!

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