The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant
THE RED TENT tells the little-known Biblical story of Dinah, daughter
of the patriarch Jacob and his wife, Leah. In Chapter 34 of the Book of
Genesis, Dinahís tale is a short, horrific detour in the familiar narrative
of Jacob and Joseph.
Anita Diamant imaginatively tells the story from the fresh perspective
of its women. In the Biblical tale Dinah is given no voice; she is the
narrator of THE RED TENT, which reveals the life of ancient womanhood
-- the world of the red tent.
Reader of THE RED TENT will view the Book of Genesis in a new light.
This guide can help spur creative discussions of the timeless story.
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1. Read Genesis 34 and discuss how THE RED TENT changes your perspective on Dinahís story and also on the story of Joseph that follows. Does THE RED TENT raise questions about other women in the Bible? Does it make you want to re-read the Bible and imagine other untold stories that lay hidden between the lines?
2. Discuss the marital dynamics of Jacobís family. He has four wives; compare his relationship with each woman?
3. What do you make of the relationships among the four wives?
4. Dinah is rich in "mothers." Discuss the differences or similarities in her relationship with each woman.
5. Childbearing and childbirth are central to THE RED TENT How do the firtility childbearing and birthing practices differ from contemporary life? How are they similar? How do they compare with your own experiences as a mother or father?
6. Discuss Jacobís role as a father. Does he treat Dinah differently from his sons? Does he feel differently about her? If so, how?
7. Discuss Dinahís twelve brothers. Discuss their relationships with each other, with Dinah, and with Jacob and his four wives. Are they a close family?
8. Female relationships figure largely in THE RED TENT Discuss the importance of Inna, Tabea, Werenro, and Meryt.
9. In the novel, Rebecca is presented as an Oracle. Goddesses are venerated along with gods. What do you think of this culture, in which the Feminine has not yet been totally divorced from the Divine? How does El, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, fit into this?
10. Dinahís point of view is often one of an outsider, an observer. What effect does this have on the narrative? What effect does this have on the reader?
11. The book travels from Haran (contemporary Iraq/Syria), through Canaan and into Shechem (Israel), and into Egypt. What strikes you about the cultural differences Dinah encounters vis-à-vis food, clothing, work, and male-female relationships.
12. In THE RED TENT, we see Dinah grow from childhood to old age. Discuss how she changes and matures. What lessons does she learn from life? If you had to pick a single word to describe the sum of her life, what word would you choose? How would Dinah describe her own life experience?
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" It is tempting to say that THE RED TENT is what the Bible would be like if it had been written by women, but only Diamant could have given it such sweep and grace. "
The Boston Globe
"The oldest story of all could never seem more original, or more true. "
James Carroll, author or An American Requiem
"Diamant succeeds admirably in depicting the lives of women in the age that engendered our civilization and our most enduring values. "
"Diamant vividly conjures up the ancient world of caravans, shepherds, farmers, midwives, slaves, and artisans
her Dinah is a compelling narrator of a tale that has timeless resonance. "
Merle Rubin, Christian Science Monitor