Pitching My Tent: On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith

Overview

Before The Red Tent won her international literary acclaim, Anita Diamant was a columnist in Boston. Over the course of twenty years, she wrote essays that reflected the shape and evoution of her life, as well as the trends of her generation. In the end, her musings about love and marriage, birth and death, nature versus nurture, politics and religion — and everything from female friendships to quitting smoking — have created a public diary of the progress of her life that resonated deeply with her readers. Now, ...

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Pitching My Tent: On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith

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Overview

Before The Red Tent won her international literary acclaim, Anita Diamant was a columnist in Boston. Over the course of twenty years, she wrote essays that reflected the shape and evoution of her life, as well as the trends of her generation. In the end, her musings about love and marriage, birth and death, nature versus nurture, politics and religion — and everything from female friendships to quitting smoking — have created a public diary of the progress of her life that resonated deeply with her readers. Now, Pitching My Tent collects the finest columns of a writer who is a reporter by training and a storyteller by heart, all revised and enriched with new material. Personal, inspiring, and often funny, Pitching My Tent displays the warmth, humor, and wisdom that Diamant's legions of fans have come to cherish.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Readers will find much to identify with....[Diamant's] pieces are laced with an insider's irony, as well as insight and poignancy." — Jewish Woman

"Celebrates the mystery, complexity, and power of faith." — Book magazine

"Diamant's graceful prose is down-to-earth and true." — The Boston Globe

Publishers Weekly
This collection of short essays, culled primarily from the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and then reworked, offers a taste of nonfiction from the author of the novels The Red Tent and Good Harbor. Diamant describes these selections, organized around such themes as love and marriage, child rearing, friendship and living a religious life, as "a sort of diary." Some pieces ring with poignancy, such as Diamant's memorial to her friend David. "I wish," she writes after she leaves the cemetery before David's casket is lowered, "I had stayed to see the workmen come with their truckload of soil that would tuck him in the earth. I would have added my flower to that blanket, burying him just a little." Other selections are less appealing, such as the one on witnessing a four-alarm fire and another on teachers and sexual harassment. The book's strength lies in its woman-to-woman conversational tone, especially in the opening section about married life and its dark side. "In my more rational moments," Diamant writes, "I understand that nagging is not only unattractive but also a total waste of energy. Jim [Diamant's husband] is never going to (a) clear out his piles of magazines, (b) pinch pennies, or (c) give his lungs and heart a break from nicotine just because of anything I say." Diamant's fans will relish "Midrash-or Not," which answers the question of whether The Red Tent is really Bible commentary. Taken together, these morsels will make a tasty snack for Diamant's admirers. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Oct. 2) Forecast: The staggering success of Diamant's previous works and a jacket photo of the author looking casual and approachable will attract female browsers, although it's unlikely this will approach Tent-like success. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Before Diamant's best-selling novel The Red Tent and her six collections on contemporary Jewish life, she was a columnist for the Boston Globe. Her job was "to report on the events of the day and changes under [her] own roof," with the goal of using her experiences to reflect trends. In writing about topics as seemingly diverse as friendships, marriage, birth, death, her dog, electoral politics, abortion, lingerie, situation comedies, God, and country, Diamant connected with her audience by tapping into the zeitgeist. Organized into six parts, this memoir includes sections on love and marriage, mother and child, friendships, the challenges of balancing a secular and religious calendar, midlife, and what it means to embrace Judaism. Because Diamant (like her readers) was "reinventing the female psyche and soul," the essays she has included here are deeply personal and, admittedly, "a sort of diary." The result is a humorous, honest, and friendly collection impossible not to love. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/03.]-Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743246170
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 9/13/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant is the bestselling author of the novels The Red Tent, Good Harbor, The Last Days of Dogtown, and Day After Night, and the collection of essays, Pitching My Tent. An award-winning journalist whose work appeared in The Boston Globe Magazine and Parenting, she is the author of six nonfiction guides to contemporary Jewish life. She lives in Massachusetts. Visit her website at AnitaDiamant.com.

Biography

Anita Diamant is an award-winning journalist and the author of several bestselling novels (The Red Tent, Good Harbor, The Last Days of Dogtown, Day After Night), a collection of essays (Pitching My Tent, and six nonfiction guides to contemporary Jewish life.

Good To Know

Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Anita Diamont:

"Modern dance concerts inspire me like little else. I'm amazed at the creativity and the range of the human imagination in the human body. Along a similar vein, I tend to prefer contemporary art museums and galleries for the visual/mental kick-in-the-pants. I don't go in expecting to like everything I see; I'm just... looking!"

"I unwind by walking on the beach. Sky, sea, sand, rocks, birds -- the great noisy emptiness. Nothing like it."

"I'd rather be home, or close to home. Traveling around the US or abroad is fascinating, but I lack the bug or gene that inspired people to visit the four corners of the globe. I'm not uncurious, honest. Maybe I'll grow into it..."

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 27, 1951
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      M.A. in English, SUNY, Binghamton, NY, 1975; B.A. in Comparative Literature, Washington Univ., St. Louis, MO, 1973.
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Before The Red Tent, before Good Harbor, before and during six books on contemporary Jewish life, I was a columnist.

I wrote essays about friendship and fashion, about marriage and electoral politics, about abortion, lingerie, situation comedies, birth, death, God, country, and my dog. I covered the waterfront and the supermarket, my synagogue, the waiting room outside the intensive care unit, and my own kitchen table.

I did this over the course of twenty years for publications that included a weekly newspaper with a mostly twenty-something readership, and later for a Sunday-magazine audience of millions. I wrote for food lovers in a New England magazine, for the parents of young children in a national publication, and for an international Jewish audience in an on-line magazine. Most of the time, my assignment was weekly; sometimes, it was monthly.

My job was to report on the events of the day and the changes under my own roof. The challenge was to pay closer-than-average attention and then shape my experiences and reactions into entertaining prose that rose above the level of my own navel. It was more than a great job — it was a meaningful job.

This collection, culled from those publications and years, turns out to be a sort of diary. It includes musings about the contents of my refrigerator as well as reflections about the most important decisions of my life. To divorce and marry again. To have a child. To live a Jewish life.

I suppose it's a measure of how much the world has changed that what once seemed like "edgy" choices now seem fairly mainstream. But at the time, I was thinking and doing things that were simply unimaginable for women at any other period in human history. Having been born female, white, and middle class in the United States, in the middle of the twentieth century, meant the women's movement happened to me, in me, for me. It meant that it was highly unlikely that I would die in childbirth, and it meant that I could teach my daughter to speak in her own voice. It meant I could love my work and love my family. And it meant that there was an audience for what I had to say about the trials and joys of this girl's life.

Actually, the audience was the great, unexpected gift of the assignment because they wrote back. A few said, "No way," and "How dare you?" But many more said, "Me, too," and "Thanks."

We connected — my readers and I — because we were trying something entirely new. We were not just tinkering around the edges, adjusting our "roles" as women and men. We were reinventing the female psyche and soul, which of course required a radical recasting of the male. We're still at it, too, and with more confidence, wisdom, and resources every year. That our daughters and sons are blasé about this transformation is a measure of our success.

Looking back through these essays, reflecting on the reflections, is a lot like leafing through the family photo album. I stop and exclaim over the difference between my daughter then (kindergarten) and my daughter now (college). The changes in me are not quite as photogenic, but I think I've become kinder and more patient. I sure hope so.

My tent is filled with friends and songs and books and memories. My tent — and I hope yours, too — is filled with blessings. Come see.

Copyright © 2003 by Anita Diamant

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Love, Marriage, Baby Carriage
The Kiss 5
Religious Fanatics 11
Why Marry? 15
Blast Offf 19
Nagging 24
Truce and Consequences 28
Grief, Dispossessed 32
Airing It Out 36
Bedtime Story 41
Fireflies 44
My One and Only
One 55
Nursing a Dream 59
Tender Triangle 63
Artful 67
Reading Material 70
Learning to Let Go 74
Beach Beacon 77
Dear Emilia 80
The Mother's Bat Mitzvah Speech 83
Columbine 86
Friday Night at the Crossroads 89
The Good Ship
Side by Side 97
Girlfriends, in Particular 101
With a Friend in Mourning 104
A Four-way Debate 107
Widening the Circle 110
To Sir, with Love 113
Dogs and Katz 116
Time Zones
Straddling the Calendar 125
Rosh Hashanah 128
The Sukkah Next Door 132
Assimilating Thanksgiving 135
Christmas Lessons 138
Ha-Ha-Hanukkah 141
Purim Rocks 145
The Orange on the Seder Plate 148
Yom HaShoah 151
Yahrzeit 154
In the Middle
Midlife, the Beginning 161
First Flame 165
Vigil 169
Time-out 173
Good-bye 176
Heaven on Earth 179
The Communal Route 183
Home for the Soul
Aleph-Bet 191
Reforming 194
My Teacher 198
Joyful Noise 201
Meeting Adjourned 204
Midrash - or Not 207
Living Waters 211
Community 217
Acknowledgments 221
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions for Pitching My Tent by Anita Diamant

1. Diamant writes: "I had very little formal religious education." Why, then, do you think religion comes to play such a large role in her understanding of the world? If there wasn't a great deal of religious schooling in her youth, what events and influences eventually transformed her approach to faith?

2. Family is a blessing for Diamant, but she is candid about the occasional struggles posed by married life. She says, "religious ritual and affiliation are mainstays of our marriage." Cite specific examples of how this is true. Also, discuss additional tools, aside from faith, used by the author to keep her marriage strong in the face of adversity.

3. Of her daughter, Diamant writes: "After her bat mitzvah, Jewish observance became more and more a matter of her own choosing. I can remind and I can nag, I can and do put my foot down when it's important enough. But ultimately she will choose how to be Jewish for herself." Does Diamant seem at ease with this truth? How do you think her style of parenting will eventually affect Emilia's spiritual life? How did the influences of your family shape your own religious thought?

4. What role does humor play in religion for Diamant? How does she reconcile this with more serious practices? Are the two inextricably linked?

5. In the case of the essay on Columbine and elsewhere, how does Diamant balance preparing her daughter for the world and protecting her from it? In what ways is she excited about Emilia's burgeoning independence, and in what ways does she fear it?

6. Many of these essays deal with the balance of tradition and change — in religion, family, and career. How does Diamant deal with change in each realm? In general, does she approach it with more enthusiasm or sadness; more remorse or peaceful acceptance? How has change itself determined the details of Diamant's life?

7. How is the author's experience filtered through her role as a member of her generation? How might many of her personal and cultural insights have changed if she had been born 20 years earlier, or 20 years later? How might her experience in a different era presented greater or lesser obstacles to the type of life she has created?

8. Was the structure of the book's six sections helpful in your understanding of her viewpoint? Which cluster of essays seemed the closest to her heart, if any? Where was there overlap between the sections?

9. What role does ancestry play in Diamant's life? In what way is she most proud to be like her ancestors? In what way is she most proud to be different?

10. In "The Communal Route," Diamant discusses living in a commune-like environment. In a later essay, she writes: "without a communal circle...even the fondest family can become claustrophobic." How does this need for communal affection manifest itself in her life — both in her family and the larger community? Choose examples from the essays to illustrate your point. Does Diamant's life seem more or less strongly based on communal ties than most people you know? If more, in what ways do you think people should take better advantage of those ties?

11. The cumulative effect of these essays is a well-rounded view of Diamant, as if you had spent a long time in her company. What about her style or views allows for such an intimate look into her life? If you were writing a similar collection of essays, which three subjects would dominate, and what would you have to say about them?

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