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:: Dinah

Finally read The Red Tent. Fabulous -- can't believe I waited this long to read it. The book really brings the era to life, culturally, physically, geographically, both Canaan and Egypt. And it's fanfic!! Taking a minor character from an established work and writing her story. In the Bible Dinah's story gets one chapter (Genesis 34), and Dinah herself gets no screen time at all, it's entirely focused on the menfolk -- the ones that rape her (according to the KJ version, anyway; this version is closer to Diamant's) and the ones that avenge her.

The story was different from what I expected, partly in the alternative take on what happened between Dinah and Shechem, of course, but more so in the near-constant undercurrent of loss: the obvious ones like loss of family, stillborn babies, death of mothers in childbirth, but also the more subtle texture of loss as you see "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob" taking over and choking off the vibrant tradition of strong, wise women. Also unexpected (but which I loved): the emphasis on women's wisdom, women's knowledge, women's deities and faith and skills and support and sisterhood. Maybe because I never had a sister and have had very few close female friends, it made me feel a bit lonely.

We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust. This is not your fault, or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed to the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing...I carried my mothers' tales into the next generation, but the stories of my life were forbidden to me, and that silence nearly killed the heart in me...And now you come to me -- women with hands and feet as soft as a queen's, with more cooking pots than you need, so safe in childbed and so free with your tongues. You come hungry for the story that was lost. You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, and my mothers, and my grandmothers before them...I am so grateful you have come.

Two huge thumbs up for this one. Now I need to start reading some of the Midrash, of course. One book leads to another, it's like they're all strung on a gigantic web. Alas, I am a tiny tiny spider! But for the moment, it's back to Churchill and the build-up to World War II: the Foreign Secretary just resigned, Seyss-Inquart's appointed himself Austrian Minister of the Interior, and I can practically hear the Von Trapp family singing "Edelweiss" as they sneak off into the hills.

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