My 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.