Best-Selling Novelist Visits Stonehill College
April 25, 2011
by Jill Jansson
Plays, columns, poems, novels, guidebooks, blogs - you name it and Anita Diamant has most likely written it.
Diamant, the best-selling author of "The Red Tent" and other novels, visited Stonehill College recently to discuss her writing career with students, faculty and members of the Easton community in honor of the Stonehill College Book Club's 20th anniversary.
Tracing her roots back to Boston, Diamant began her career as a freelance journalist for Boston area magazines and newspapers, along with regional and national media, such as the New England Monthly, Self and Parenting.
Diamant wrote nonfiction for 25 years.
"I liked writing first-person essays. I was comfortable with this format," she said.
Then, she decided she wanted a change.
"I was feeling stale and stuck," she said.
At first, she tried writing a novel just to see if she could.
"I wanted the challenge. It was a kick in the writing pants," Diamant told the audience in an onstage interview with Maureen Boyle, a professor of journalism at Stonehill.
Diamant's first novel, "The Red Tent," was a retelling of the rape of Dinah in Genesis chapter 34. She called it her knitting project because, she said, "there were no guarantees it would see the light of day."
But within a year after she completed the manuscript, her book was published in 1997.
Diamant described her novels as stories of resilience, where women make it through difficult times in history.
"I hope they give a positive message that human beings are better than they are worse," she said.
Her most recent novel, "Day After Night," tells the stories of four young Jewish women who make their way to Israel during the summer following World War II.
"It's about what happens after the worst thing that could possibly happen, happens," Diamant said.
Each of her novels has the common theme: demonstrating the spirit of strong women. However, each plot and setting is different. She said she likes to keep it fresh.
"Every time I start to write, I feel like I don't know what I'm doing because it's so new," she said.
"The Red Tent" is based on a true Biblical account, but is historical fiction.
"Many readers say they wish that it was true," she said.
Diamant aims to be as historically accurate as possible, but she is not a historian and does not intend to become one, she said, and sometimes she has to stop herself from researching too much.
"For ‘The Red Tent,' I didn't want to be a biblical scholar or Egyptologist," she said.
For "Day After Night," Diamant said she had to get all her facts straight because she knew there are people still alive who lived in Palestine after World War II and would hold her accountable for what she wrote.
"Day After Night" came about when she visited her daughter, who was studying abroad in Israel. She participated in a pilgrimage to Palestine. She knew she had found her next story, she said.
"The images stayed with me," she said.
Diamant is currently working on a new novel about Rockport Lodge, a vacation inn in the north end of Boston during the 20th century for immigrant women and girls with little means. It was known as the fresh-air fund for these women living in settlements, she said.
"I worked on that for 31/2 today, not counting the dog-walking and coffee-making time," Diamant told her Stonehill audience.
For more information, contact Communications and Media Relations at 508-565-1321.