Book Review: The Red Tent

Today I wanted to talk about a very special, beautiful, life-changing book, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. When I first set my feet on this path of women’s spirituality I heard about this book over and over again and how wonderful it was. There was this woman’s movement of honoring your menstrual cycle and seeing it more as a form of power and less as an inconvenience. I loved that idea.

I saw the trailer for the movie “Things We Don’t Talk” which is all about the modern-day Red Tent movement, women coming together. Women leaning on each other. Being comforted by each other. Drawing power from one another. I thought it was a beautiful idea and it inspired me.

So I bought the book.

It sat on my bookshelf for many months as I got busy with life and forgot about it. I sometimes wondered if the book was for me. It’s based on the stories in the bible. I’m not a big fan of the bible, it’s not something that I find interesting or that I have any desire to read about.

Yet there came the story of Dinah. Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, who had twelve sons. The book starts off told in Dinah’s voice but it is about her four mothers. Leah — the mother who birthed her. Rachel — her beautiful aunt who had so much sorrow in trying to bear a child. Zilpah who told her the stories and mysteries of the Gods. And lastly, Bilbah, the one that said little and listened much.

You learn the tales of the Red Tent. These wives, who were also sisters and mothers. Their jealousies, their sorrows, and their joys.

Dinah grows up among these women, learning from them, loving them and being loved by them as the sole girl-child. She was their legacy. The one to carry on their stories. Eventually, Dinah grows up and she falls in love for the first time. Tragedy strikes and Dinah’s whole world is shattered. Not being familiar with the bible, I was really shocked by the turn of events in the book and I had doubts about whether or not I was going to like the second half of it. Dinah’s whole world changed and so did the course of the book.

I found myself falling in love with the book even more as it progressed. It ended up being a beautiful story of women helping women. Friendship, grief, birth, struggles, love, sadness, family, forgiveness, motherhood… The themes in this book were just so powerful, especially the ever-present theme of sisterhood that appeared over and over again.

I found something in my heart calling out for that sort of sisterhood. 

Not even just in the sense of the Red Tent, a beautiful sacred space shared by women, but also in wanting a strong female friendship. Someone that I could be a sister to and that I could give that in return. It made my heart mourn a little bit for the lack of it. I felt that motherly, nurturing, side of me tugged at a little bit. It made me want to give love and kindness to every woman that I meet.

I think the world needs a little more of that.

I want to give the world more of that. Women can be judgmental, we can be catty, and we can let jealousy rule us in terrible ways. What if we tore that down? And what if we replaced it with compassion? What if we stopped judging one another and just loved each other for one simple reason? Because we can, because it is in our power to do so?

What are your feelings on sisterhood? How do you feel about other women? Do you find it easy to form bonds with them?