|The Red Tent By: Anita Diamant|
This book had been recommended to me at least a hundred times, and I could NOT wait to read it. So when I found a copy of it on sale for next to nothing, I snatched it right up. To be honest though, for all the recommendations I was surprised to find out this was fiction. I had been told it was inspirational, and I knew that it had a large impact on the modern "Red Tent Movement." But I was unaware that it was in fact a retelling of a very Ancient story.
I generally do not read fiction, more than that, I tend to do everything I can to steer myself clear of historical fiction in any way. I am a fact monger and hate when authors stray from actual history to create some insanely impossible story about Abraham Lincoln being a Vampire Hunter or whatever... Thankfully, since this book came so highly recommended, I didn't let that sway me.
Turns out it was an incredible retelling of the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, from Genesis. Growing up as I did, I knew the story of Dinah rather well from a traditional stand point. But even after all the years I've spent seeing the world through Pagan eyes, and all I now know about early Israelite culture, I never thought to rethink these early stories.
Finishing this book was, for me, a rather bitter sweet moment. I felt as if I wanted more... I wanted it to go on forever. I wanted to know what happened to her sons, hear her mother's stories more, and most of all I didn't want to come back to the world I know. It was strange, as much of her story made be feel such sorrow for her, while all the while feeling sorrow for myself and my generation for not living in the way she did. I felt as if I were getting a glimpse of all that I am missing - not enough to fully reclaim it, but just enough to see that I don't have it. All the wisdom, sisterhood and spiritual connection which is lacking from our society seemed to exist in the world this book created. And finishing it, putting it back on the shelf, only seemed to reinforce the idea that it was fiction, something out of my reach, something I could never have.
In our modern world we are taught that being a woman is something shameful. If you are proud of your body, you're a slut. If you hide your body, you're a prude. If you bleed, you're dirty. Have more than one partner, you're a whore. Only have one partner, you missed out... It doesn't matter what you've done or who you are, if you're a woman it seems society, especially other women, will find fault in you. So the idea of women coming together, finding a bond in one another, especially around their monthly flow, child bearing and simply being women is alien to me, yet it seems like something out of a dream.
Again, growing up the way I did, I find myself needing to fight the urge to be embarrassed about my cycle. Going an entire life being told it's something to hide at all costs is difficult to over come. I was told from the time I was a girl that bleeding women were "unclean" and I remember reading the Biblical passages over and over about women being separated during this time. It's only with this book that I have begun to realize this was not done for the sake of them being "unclean" but to give them the ability to relax and take care of themselves during this time.
I will say that I understand why so many conservative Christians are finding this book difficult to swallow. The author has a great understanding of how faiths were expressed and followed in those days. While Biblical teachers would have us believe that early Israelite communities were solidly fixed to their "One God" reality (as discovered through Archaeology) has shown itself to be very different, with numerous gods being honored, especially among women. However, as a Pagan, I found this to be not only refreshing, but inspiring!
Over all I found the writing style to be extremely enjoyable and easy to read - even when I was sick. But I never felt as if it was "dumbed down" or childish. The author was able to express some very in depth emotions and situations in an understandable and smoothly written style. IF you're looking for some fact based history lesson however, this is not it. And although it's clear the author did a great deal of research on the lives of people in this time period, the details are "off" in a few scenes. Aside from this minor issue - which is simply a part of fiction writing - the book is a wonderful collection of vivid images, heart felt "memories" from the narrators life and inspirational thought points.
My recommendation is for every woman of bleeding age and beyond to read this book! I will be keeping my copy and reading it over and over. And when my own daughter comes of age, she'll be getting her own copy!
I have never found myself so proud to be a woman as I am after reading this title. It has certainly changed my over all outlook and my drive to reclaim what it means to be a woman - for myself, and for my daughter!