Women readers, said Anita Diamant, celebrated author of The Red Tent, respond to the novel “in many ways and for many reasons.”
“I’ve heard from midwives and nurses, for whom the book is about childbirth,” she told NJJN. “Some people say it enabled them to view the Bible in a new light. But many others have told me they appreciate the way the book celebrates and honors women’s work and friendships.”
Diamant will talk about The Red Tent and her other works — which include a host of “how-to” books on Jewish life-cycle and practice — during an Author’s Weekend, Friday-Sunday, Nov. 2-4, in Monmouth County. She will attend services and present programs at two area synagogues and a local church.
On Friday, following 7 p.m. Shabbat services at Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls, Diamant will engage in a free-form, Oprah-style interview with Rabbi Michelle Pearlman and will answer questions from congregants. The evening session is being billed as “Pitching My Tent,” which is the title of one of Diamant’s books, a collection of essays subtitled On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith.
The following day at a luncheon held after Shabbat services at Marlboro Jewish Center, she will deliver a talk on “Judaism as a Pathway of Spiritual Meaning.”
On Sunday, Diamant will be at St. George’s-by-the-River Episcopal Church in Rumson for a discussion of The Red Tent and a book signing. The service will begin at 10 a.m., and her presentation is set for 11:30.
The Red Tent, Diamant’s first novel and her best-known work, tells the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and Leah. Although Dinah plays only a minor part in the Bible — she is raped by Shechem and avenged by her brothers Simeon and Levi — she is front-and-center in the novel, which was first published in 1997 and became a best-seller in 2001.
In order to write the book, Diamant said, she had to learn everything she could about the food, clothing, social organization, architecture, and medicine of the ancient Near East in that time period (around 1,500 BCE). She also had to imagine what it was like to be a woman in a primitive, patriarchal society.
The author said the red tent of the title sprang whole from her imagination. She described it as a place where women were sequestered during menstruation, childbirth, illness, and death, the one place where they could express themselves without male interference and domination.
Before tackling The Red Tent, Diamant had been a columnist and also published six nonfiction books about contemporary Jewish life, including Choosing a Jewish Life, The New Jewish Wedding, and How to Be a Jewish Parent.
Her other novels include Good Harbor, The Last Days of Dogtown, and Day after Night, which tells the story of four young Jewish women, Holocaust survivors who make their way to the Land of Israel in 1945.
The author told NJJN she is currently finishing Rockport Lodge, which takes place in the Boston area in the years 1915 to 1925. The coming-of-age story about the daughter of Jewish immigrants is scheduled for publication in the fall of 2013.
In addition, Diamant is the founder and president of Mayyim Hayyim, Living Waters Community Mikveh, and the Paula Brody & Family Education Center, in Newton, Mass., near where she lives with her husband, Jim Ball, cofounder of the Boston Jewish Music Festival. Their daughter Emilia, a Jewish educator, lives nearby. Mayyim Hayyim provides ritual immersions, educational programs, an art gallery, consultation services, and volunteer opportunities and training.