Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Posting the senryu first, as a short review for Weekly Geeks:

in the red tent

womanhood is celebrated-
which genesis ignored


We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.

Title: The Red Tent

Author: Anita Diamant
ISBN: 0312195516
Publisher: Picador/1997
Pages: 321

The Red Tent is a story told in the voice of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah. Jacob had twelve sons but only one daughter. Dinah was loved by all her four mothers: Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. She had different equations with all of them. All the four told her about themselves and their experiences, right from her childhood. She was not left out of anything.

The Red Tent represents the tent belonging exculsively to women, who go there once a month for about three days to menstruate, where they deliver their children, where they tell stories and sing. The differences between the women is left outside and inside the tent they experience spirituality, which is not separate from the physical world. For them, everything is holy, dreams show the future. The bodily rhythms of the women is attuned to the rhythm of the Earth and they feel so much near to spiritual insights. Prophecy, interpretation of dreams, clairvoyance are not something to laugh about but to experience. Inside that red tent, women are very powerful.

Men are not aware of what happens in there, going about in their crude ways. They don't understand the spiritual aspect of it.

Told from Dinah's point of view, she fell in love with a Shechemite. And her brothers did not like it. They said she was raped and had to be avenged. Hungering for power, her brothers Simeon and Levi attacked the
Shechemites while they were recovering from circumcision which the Jacobites had ordered for all the Shechemites as part of the bride price. This treachery forced Dinah to curse her brothers and she escaped to egypt with her mother-in-law. After giving birth to a son in this new place, she becomes a midwife, that skill she had learnt from one of her mothers, Rachel.

The Red Tent speaks of the power of Woman, even those who don't have a voice. With good prose, Diamant makes it feasible. It might be a work of fiction but if Dinah had been given a voice in the Bible, she would told it this way. The Red Tent celebrates woman.