Study Guide

The Red Tent Introduction

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The Red Tent Introduction

After reading Anita Diamant's novel The Red Tent, you can finally answer that age old question: "Where do babies come from?"

Finally, a book that answers childhood's biggest question without any birds or bees in sight.

Okay, so The Red Tent isn't exactly about where babies come from; it's actually a deeply religious text about a woman's life and her experiences giving birth, becoming a woman, and suffering love and loss. But it's not just that. It's a New York Times Bestseller. This book is huge, and The Boston Globe sums up its importance by saying:

It is tempting to say that The Red Tent is what the Bible would be like if it had been written by women, but only Diamant could have given it such sweep and grace (source).

Yeah, this thing is legit.

By the way, if you happen to be a fan of that book called the Bible, you might even recognize the main character. Her name is Dinah, and she's a minor character in the Book of Genesis. You might even recognize the plot as well, since Diamant pretty much expands on the story we get in Genesis, but from a totally different perspective.

It's always so interesting to delve into the lives of minor characters, because really, all minor characters could be major characters—it just depends on how you look at them. And Diamant was apparently like, "Hey, the women in Genesis kinda seem like minor characters. Let's see what they're actually all about."

So, yeah, this book was huge when it was published in 1997. It's no wonder it was adapted into a miniseries by Lifetime TV in 2014. It even stars Minnie Driver as Leah and Rebecca Ferguson as Dinah.

Seriously, folks: this book has everything.

What is The Red Tent About and Why Should I Care?

Have you ever been reading a book when you come across a minor character that's simply fascinating, but you only meet that character for a short time? It can be pretty frustrating.

Sure, Hamlet might be the main protagonist in Hamlet, but that dude Horatio is pretty interesting, right? Or that girl from The Hunger Games, Foxface, who dies by eating poisonous berries. Wasn't she cool? Ever wonder what her backstory was?

Well, in The Red Tent, you finally get to learn about the life of a minor character. In this case, it's Dinah, a woman from Genesis. Yeah, she's the woman whose story you get in the very middle of Genesis, when Jacob's family is being talked about. Since we don't actually get her perspective in Genesis, you might not fully understand her struggles—but The Red Tent can answer all of our questions.

See, minor characters often appear flat: they do just one thing, or there's one thing that stands out about them and defines them. In Genesis, Dinah is a woman who is raped by the prince of Shechem, and her brothers kill all the men of Shechem in revenge. But that's not exactly the case in The Red Tent.

In this novel, Dinah doesn't get raped at all; she falls in love. Her brothers don't avenge her; they ruin her life and kill her beloved. Hmm, see the difference?

Dinah's story makes us think twice about judging a book by its cover. What you get in The Red Tent is probably not what you'd expect, given the story in Genesis. Who's to say which story is closer to the truth? Yeah, yeah, we know—it's fiction. But even fictional characters can surprise us and make us think about how we interpret people and their stories.

And that's not to mention all the other stuff that's great about this book. You know, like how Dinah's story alone stands out as a beautiful and tragic work of fiction.

That's pretty important, too.

The Red Tent Resources


Anita Diamant's Website
All things Anita Diamant right here.

Lifetime TV
This is where you'll be able to watch The Red Tent.


The Red Tent
Everything you want to know about The Red Tent miniseries from Lifetime.


Dinah's Interview
Want an interview with someone other than the author? Check out one with Dinah. Wait, what? Click here to find out.

Video Interview
Check out Aaron Katersky's interview with Anita Diamant.

Yet Another Interview
This one comes, appropriately enough, from Ms. Magazine.


A look at Rebecca Ferguson, who plays Dinah in the Lifetime series.

And Minnie Driver plays Leah.

Game of Thrones Fans: Recognize Anyone?
Look who plays Jacob, folks.

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