For those who don’t know, The Red Tent by Anita Diamont is a novel based on her interpretation of the life of Dinah, only daughter of Jacob and Leah. In fact, the only daughter of Jacob, period.
The Bible barely mentions Dinah, except for the fact that she was raped and the aftermath for her family. The Bible never tells us what happened to Dinah. Diamont took on that task.
But the book is not really about Dinah’s rape. The book is about the women surrounding this nomadic, early Judaism tribe. Jacob marries four sisters and they and the bondswomen of the camp share their time in the tent during their monthly periods. Being the only daughter, Dinah is allowed in the tent with them and she, as the narrator, recounts tales of what happens there.
What stands out to me is the ritual and the camaraderie that takes place there, even between Leah and her sister and fellow wife of Jacob, Rachel. I think most know the story of Leah and Rachel, so I won’t get into that.
But reading this book makes me sad. I feel like we as women and society as a whole lost a lot as we became more “civilized,” as science and technology took over our lives. There’s much to be said for superstition, mythology and believing in magic, even just a little bit.
And there’s much to be said for coming-of-age rituals celebrating our ability to conceive and carry life. This is no longer honored. And I think most young girls would be mortified if it were because I guess it just isn’t “cool” amongst the junior high school crowd.
I know I wouldn’t have wanted so much attention drawn to my first menstruation. And maybe that isn’t the place we should rediscover our ancient roots. But somewhere, somehow, we really should try to remember that no matter how much science is out there, there will always be mystery and beauty and life.