This would not be a good book review whatsoever if I failed to mention the controversies surrounding it. When I read it for the first time in college I recommended it to my aunt, who hated it. We never really discussed it much and what we did discuss I have forgotten. When I realized that there are people who disklike The Red Tent I tried to find articles or entries about why people dislike it so much.
Here is what I did find, as well as my own speculations about why people have unfuzzy feelings towards one of my very favorite books.
(please someone correct me if I am incorrect on any of my information regarding Diamant).I didn't realize until I started researching that Anita Diamant is Jewish. She has been writing for 35 years. her fist book is called "The New Jewish Wedding"
She has written 8 other books dedicated to the Jewish faith and lifestyle. She didn't write The Red Tent until 1997. So she had a large Jewish following when she published this, her first novel.
I am not Jewish and know almost nothing about the religion, so maybe whatever Jewish parts that could have been going on in the novel definately went right over my head. Diamant did not write this book for any specific religion or with any specific agenda in mind, BUT, many Jewish readers are critical of some aspects of the book that they believe have been misrepresented.
Diamant says that several readers refer to her book as "midrash" which she describes as "creative biblical commentary". In other words, it's like an addition to the Bible that tells a story in a creative way or gives you other ideas to ponder. Diamant says her book is not midrash because it can be read with no knowledge of the biblical story. (of course in my opinion it adds to the joy of reading the book). Midrash reflects back on the original text. The Red Tent stands alone. Plus it is written about a character that is not well known. You can't really reflect much on her story.
Clergy , Rabbis, Ministers and Priests have used thos book as a teaching tool and a way to bring people back to the Bible by making it interesting. Showing them that these biblical characters lived like real people and making them come alive.
"The painful things seemed like knots on a beautiful necklace, necessary for keeping the beads in place."
— Anita Diamant (The Red Tent)
Religion is a very touchy subject. It is a personal thing. We hold it very dear to our hearts and no one better dare try to change our minds about anything! Anita Diamant takes liberties with this story. She takes the very limited information there is on this forgotten girl and tells what could have been her story. Some things may be true. Others not. I think what angers people is that when you read a story based on the Bible you expect certain things to be the same. Diamant changes things.
The main example of this is Dinah's rape. I don't want to ruin any of the story but it is written in the Bible that Dinah's brothers avenge her rape. However, Diamant sees this part of the story differently. Think about what is written, according to the Bible; the prince of the city of the city goes to Jacob and asks to marry Dinah. Jacob says no. The prince returns and Jacob (after speaking it over with his sons) tells the prince that in order for him to have his daughter as a wife all the men of the city (or palace) must be circumsized (according to the customs of Jacob's family). The prince is horrified but agrees. The men are circumsized and during the night while they are recovering Jacob's sons murder every man in the city. (or at least in the palace). The details of this story didn't sit right with Diamant and she wrote the story differently. I won't ruin it for you.
I can see why some people would be upset by her changes. In the Bible, Jesus and God are the center of every story. That's what the Bible is about, right? Diamant's book focuses very little on faith. It hardly mentions God at all. This most likely angers a lot of people. But Diamant's intentions where not to focus on religion.
Look at it this way. We are told that Bible times are not different from today in regard to miracles. We read these remarkable stories and the preacher tells us that we can see miracles every day if we look for them. SO, if the Bible times are not so different then a lot of what Diamant writes is probably pretty accurate; at least in regard to daily living. She writes of Jacob's 4 wives. Since when is it okay to have 4 wives? Back then it was. And that doesn't make us mad. But I think seeing it written this way kindof puts in in our faces and makes us acknowledge that everything that happened back then wasn't always so noble and perfect, so maybe some other stuff that happened wasn't so noble and perfect either.
The women of the story did not worship God. I'm just guessing, but maybe the women of that time in that situation may not have been so informed or involved in Jacob's God. Maybe because their lives were so separate ( I mean, they didn't even eat together ). And since the book is written from the women's perspective there wasn't much of a reason to mention God or Jesus.
The biblical characters are not magical. They had real lives. It is shocking to us to read about them as having real emotions, fears, and mistakes and that probably makes us a little bitter because after hearing Bible stories we expect something different. Maybe it's because we think that stories based on biblical characters and in biblical times should talk more about God. The Red Tent does not really talk about God; at least not as a central character.
Does that makes us angry? Why do we get so bent up over religion?