Literary Criticism and Significance
Published in 1997 by Wyatt Books for St. Martin’s Press, The Red Tent hailed no fanfare upon its release and only started to enjoy success and publicity when book clubs and reading groups around the country adopted the novel. A practiced journalist, author Anita Diamant had penned articles and nonfiction books, such as The New Jewish Wedding (published in 1985), but The Red Tent was her fiction debut. When it was released, the book heralded few reviews and seemed destined to remain as filler on the shelves of bookshops around the nation. But the revisioned story of Dinah would not be silenced, and the novel gained a readership that seemed to want to see women earn a place in Biblical history. Through word-of-mouth publicity sparked by Diamant’s publisher, Diane Higgins, the novel began to be noticed by members of clergy and reading circles. The Red Tent received support from members of religious groups, Jewish and Christian alike, for the new vision given to Dinah and the important issues raised for women.
Miriyam Glazer, professor of literature at the University of Judaism in California, says that “women are drawn to fill in the missing details of Dinah’s story,” and this was one of the thoughts that prompted Diamant to write the novel. Dinah’s silence piqued Diamant’s interest and sparked her imagination. Diamant admits that she has used much poetic license in recreating Dinah’s story: For example, the red tent—the novel’s central motif—does not appear in Biblical stories. Tents such as these were used in other documented civilizations, and Diamant felt it fitting to include as a metaphor to represent women’s culture and experience.
The Red Tent spent much time on bestseller lists, including that of The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and it remains popular with readers. Diamant travels regularly to meet with readers and host book talks. After the publication of the novel, fans of The Red Tent were eager to see Diamant recreate another Biblical story in which women had been silenced; however, Diamant said that she needed to take a break from this type of story. Diamant’s second novel, Good Harbor,explores the lives of women as they negotiate the strains of marriage, motherhood, career, and friendship. In her later works of fiction, Diamant has continued to explore the recreation of silenced voices such as those of New England African women in The Last Days of Dogtown.