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Jan. 31st, 2006 @ 09:03 am The Red Tent (teeny spoiler)
I recently finished reading Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. It is a lovely story, in much the same vein as Mel Gibson's portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart. (Not where you thought I was going with ole Mel was it?) The figure existed, but the life she describes is one I have a hard time believing. And it generally bothers me that many people believe she is describing the truth of this woman's existence.

It is the story of a girl named Dinah, briefly mentioned twice in Genesis 32-34. Half-sister to Joseph, grand-daughter of Isaac. She is the daughter raped by Shechem, the king's son. This event incites her brothers to kill the king, and every male in the town. Dinah is said to have been carried from the town, but she is not heard from again in the bible. In the Diamant's interpretation, this is a love story, and she escapes with her mother-in-law. That I don't really have a problem with, I do however have a problem with is the red tent and what it represents. The women who raise her are clinging to older pagan gods, and not the embracing the god of their husband Jacob. I have a hard time believing that a religious fanatic, the man named Israel would allow the women he is married to to worship gods other than his own. The author claims to be practicing "midrash" however I believe the fault lies in the fact that while she may have examined the practices and daily life of the women of this era, she did not examine them in the context of who these specific women were married to.

Dinah has a tough life, but I don't think it even comes close to representing the life that an unmarried woman would have. There is beauty and peace and love and worship of the female as life-giver where in reality they were considered little more than property. The cynic in me saw this 'beautiful' interpretation in the same light as reincarnation stories. A seer will rarely tell you that you were a lowly maid, your history is more likely to be one of royalty and influence. While women around here were raped and beaten and carried off as the spoils of war, she was pampered and protected.


As a book describing strong, vibrant women, and the beauty of the connectedness that mothers and daughters can have it can be rivetting. As any form of insight into a woman's life in early biblical times, I'm highly skeptical.
Who does she think she is?
catspit
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From:lilcrazy
Date:January 31st, 2006 04:52 pm (UTC)
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I am 1/2 way done with reading that book right now. Its such an interesting read, about the relationships she has with her mothers and aunts.
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From:neeroc
Date:January 31st, 2006 04:54 pm (UTC)
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I did enjoy the story of their relationships, once I put that nagging little history geek voice away *g*
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From:redgemini
Date:January 31st, 2006 10:43 pm (UTC)
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Hey, we just finished this for book club!

Wow, I have a really different take on it. First, I think the red tent represents a flash of independence from women who were otherwise mostly considered property. I can easily imagine Jacob allowing it because most men wanted little to do with menstruation.

Agree that Dinah had a harsh life in our view, but as a women of her time it wasn't all that bad. Her character even says as much, IIRC.

I suppose I am much more sentimentalist that cynic- I wasn't looking for an accurate portrayal of historical life; I wanted a good story, which I got.
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From:neeroc
Date:February 1st, 2006 03:30 am (UTC)
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I guess I wish it was either more historical or more fictional. Part of my problem is that I've got friends in book clubs that have read this and go off on the wonderful insights they've gotten now that they read the book, in a da Vinci Code sort of way. It hasn't sparked them to find out more about the life and times, they think that was the way life was.

Once I shut that little voice up, I did enjoy the story.
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