To Participate in My Journey of Discovery
as I Research and Write Two New Books:
Women of a New Moon & Daughters of Eve
About fifteen years ago, while listening to members of my small rural synagogue discuss a Torah passage, I came up with the initial seed of an idea that is now becoming a new novel: Women of a New Moon.
Sitting in a pew, surrounded by fellow congregants who were engaged in a serious dialog about the week’s portion, I suddenly went into creative mode. The following thoughts tumbled through my mind, one right after the other::
- When people gather to discuss the Bible – just as when they discuss any book, movie or play – what they are really talking about is themselves: their fears, concerns, histories, etc.
- What a great literary device!
- I’ll put six very different fictional women into a Torah discussion group and watch the sparks fly.
- I need to write this novel.
- Whoa! What do I know about the Torah?
Being a secular humanist, raised by Jews who were proud of their heritage but not religious at all, I had never studied any of Judaism’s sacred texts beyond whatever cursory glances I was given during Sunday school or holiday celebrations. I hadn’t been bat mitzvahed. We had never kept kosher. And belonging to a synagogue hadn’t been a religious choice. Instead, it was an act of solidarity and support (in the wake of the Holocaust), as well as an opportunity to socialize with other Jews.
But encouraged by Daniel, I mentioned my idea for a novel and my concerns about it to our rabbi, Peg Kershenbaum. Without blinking an eye, she decided then and there to form a women’s Torah study group. Over the years since, I’ve enjoyed the challenges and interactions of our monthly study group, but I continued to be intimidated by the idea of writing the novel. Then one day, while listening to my friends in our group discuss the story of Ruth and Naomi, I realized it was now or never.
Women of a New Moon is the most challenging project I’ve ever tackled, which is why I have to do it.
Synopsis: Women of a New Moon
When neo-Nazis torch a synagogue, killing the rabbi, a small Pennsylvania town splinters and fragments, and new terrorist threats loom. Hoping to bring solace to the rabbi’s widow, women gather for monthly discussions of the stories of women of the Bible (such as Eve and Lilith, Sarah and Hagar, Miriam, etc.).
As they devour and debate the ancient texts, the novel delves into each woman’s private thoughts, and the others are seen as through fractured mirrors, creating an aggregate view that slices to the core of their biases and fears. A 9/11 survivor uses brittle intolerance as a shield against her ever-present terror. A hard-nosed agnostic battles alcoholic guilt over her daughter’s overdose death. A stroke victim struggles to remember the words of her heart’s poetry. The six women’s stories are riddled with pain and anger, sparking arguments with each other… and with God.
With cinematic focus, the novel’s ten chapters are set in the women’s living room meetings, creating the myth of a protective bubble. As dissimilar as the women are – at different stages of life, with distinct backgrounds and conflicting beliefs – they discover that the healing that has eluded each of them might be possible, if they can learn to listen to each other. But interstitial sections between the chapters, consisting of news stories and emails, bring the threatening outside world closer each month, until the two collide.
And so a new work — Daughters of Eve — was born
The research for Women of a New Moon is intense, including studying wide-ranging interpretations of the stories of women of the Hebrew Bible (called the tanahk by Jews and The Old Testament by Christians). And it’s filling me with questions about the common Abrahamic heritage of Jews, Christians and Muslims, and how these stories can be used as a filter to better understand the nature of modern women’s experiences. So, in the quiet moments, when not working on my novel, I found myself writing essays exploring those questions. The result is another work in progress: Daughters of Eve, which is under contract to be published by Bayit.
Daughters of Eve is a workbook designed to facilitate discussions not so much about religion or the Bible, but about how the stories of the ancient female prototypes of the Hebrew Bible (such as Eve, Rebekah, Deborah, and so forth) influence and reflect who we are today as 21st century women. The workbook will consists of 12 monthly modules each of which will include one of my essays and a series of discussion questions that will help groups try to find personal answers and relevancy. The Daughters of Eve workbook will guide discussion groups to delve more deeply, beyond the published questions, igniting a sharing of each participant’s interpretations and perspectives.
While initially conceived as a secular humanist workbook, the discussions generated will open paths for in-depth dialogues among both non-religious and religious participants, as well as among readers of different faiths. If all goes well, I will create (and Bayit will publish) annual Daughters of Eve workbooks for at least three to five years.
Please join me on this adventure
The two books — a novel and a collection of essays — are completely separate and quite different from each other in terms of content, purpose, style and genre. However, both involve weaving millennia of biblical interpretations (from ancient times to today) to explore and try to understand today’s world. My research and writing has my mind buzzing with questions and ideas, far more than will fit into either book. So when I can find the time or when a concept just won’t let go of me, I’ll be posting additional questioning essays here on my blog. As I wrestle with the texts, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about any of the women of the Hebrew Bible. Please join me in trying to look at all sides and perspectives. I’d welcome emails (via this site’s contact page), replies on my Facebook or twitter feeds, comments on my posted essays or possibly guest posts on my blog. Let’s have fun unearthing and exploring new interpretations, or revisiting and re-inventing old ones, and see where the adventure takes us.
By the way, while I welcome disagreements about concepts as whetting stones for our minds and a path to possibly developing new syntheses, please keep the discussion mutually respectful.