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In the latter half of the eleventh century, the renowned scholar Salomon ben Isaac (or Rashi) breaks with tradition by teaching each of his three daughters, Joheved, Miriam, and Rachel, the intricacies of the Talmud. When Miriam loses her betrothed and childhood study partner, Benjamin, she feels as if her life has come to an end. And yet familial and societal pressures demand that she move past his death and choose a husband. So when handsome Judah ben Natan appears in the French city of Troyes, seeking a wife who is both modest and a scholar, it appears as if fate, or Le Bon Dieu, has only good fortune in store for the apprentice midwife.
But while Judah is a devoted Talmud scholar and quickly becomes a valued member of Salomon’s yeshiva, he wrestles daily with desires that conflict with his religion and the vocation he adores. Meanwhile, Miriam faces censure from her community as she becomes the first woman in Troyes, and one of the first in Europe, to perform brit milah—ritual circumcisions.
Rashi’s Daughters, Book II: Miriam picks up where its acclaimed predecessor, Rashi’s Daughters, Book I: Joheved, left off. InBook II, Maggie Anton continues to follow this fascinating trio of sisters as they defy the expectations and opinions that confine them, all while studying and revering their heritage through their devotion to the Talmud. This second installment of the Rashi’s Daughters series raises intriguing questions about women, sexuality, and tradition, while presenting a vivid picture of medieval France, and giving us insight into the timeless nature of loss, and of love.
ABOUT MAGGIE ANTON
Maggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. In the early 1990's, Anton began studying Talmud in a class for women taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Legend has it that Rashi's daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a book about them was born.
A CONVERSATION WITH MAGGIE ANTON
Q. How did you gain your expertise on medieval Jewish life and, in particular, the lives of women during that period?
A. I started my research three years before beginning to write. However, I have been constantly doing more research and incorporating what I’ve learned into what I’m writing. I actually changed the ending of Book I: Joheved the month before it went to the printer because I learned something new about medieval brit milah.
Q. What scene (or scenes) came to you first when you wrote Joheved’s story, and what scene(s) did you first visualize when you began Miriam’s story? How did your experience of writing Book I: Joheved differ from your experience of writing Book II: Miriam?
A. I first visualized what came to be the opening scene, with Joheved in bed with the cat, and also the scenes where Leah accuses the servant of stealing and where Rashi’s family learns to make parchment. For Miriam, I first visualized the night where she seduces Judah and he thinks she’s a demon. I had never written anything before Book I: Joheved, so I had a huge learning curve and it took me ten drafts. Book II was easier; I knew much more about plot and character development.
Q. What is it like working on Book III: Rachel (which is due out in bookstores in 2009), knowing that this is the last of Rashi’s three unusual daughters, and therefore the end of the trilogy? How hard will it be to leave this particular cast of characters and their extraordinary narrative?
A. Actually, I’m still learning lots of interesting things about medieval Jews as I research Rachel’s story, perhaps more than I can use. So depending on how successful the trilogy is, I may decide to write Rashi’s Granddaughters. In any case, I expect to keep studying Talmud for many more years, so Rashi and his family will continue to speak to me.ence of Ruth Stone’s poem “Romance” that I found inspiring the summer I read it over and over. And of course Virginia Woolf and Jane Austen.
Q. What other subjects are you interested in writing about? Do you have any other historical figures or time periods, and any other projects, in mind?
A. When I first decided to write Rashi’s Daughters, I had in mind another possibility, a historical novel about a woman mentioned many times in the Talmud, Rav Chisda’s daughter, who was married, in turn, to scholars who headed the two great Talmud academies in Babylon. I think the time period (500 CE) when the Talmud was redacted is also a fascinating one that few people know about. So I still want to tell her story.
I had heard about these books from a lady that was reading another series that i absolutely loved. Seeing that she and I likely had similar taste in novels, and ran to the computer to look up Rashi's Daughters. As usual I read through the reviews in earnest to see if I wanted to invest the $40+ to purchase the trilogy. In reviews for the first book 7 out of 8 people sang it's praises. Anticipating similar praises for the next book I was very disappointed to see that 50% of the reviews were negative. How can this be I asked myself. It was the same author and in so many of books that I've read they tend to get better with each book as the characters develop more and I become more entrenched in the story. I reread the negative reviews again to see why these 8 reviewers were so split and discovered a disturbing pattern. Each of the reviewers who rated the book poorly mentioned the sex and more specifically homosexuality in their review. Interesting that none of the positive reviews even touched on it. It became clear to me that those who disliked the book clearly were not comfortable with the subject matter of sexuality and completely put off by the homosexuality that was revealed. I don't know if anyone else noticed what I noticed but I felt compelled point this out in case anyone reads their reviews and decides against buying them based on those reviewers blatant prejudice. Before anyone thinks that this review of my own is self serving I feel it important to mention that I am Jewish and Hetero but have many friends that have found beautiful love and partnership with someone of their same gender. In this time in our history when finding a life partner is more difficult than ever, regardless of your sexual preference it boggles my mind that some have such a strong aversion to same sex couples when the majority of them are not directly nor indirectly affected by them nor do they associate with them anywhere in their lives. So what do they care? I think that those reviews should be stricken simply because, while they attempt to point to other things like historical accuracy for their dislike of the book, it is obvious what their real discomfort was all about. But since we fought for free speech and those reviews will likely stay up I thought I should point out what they really thought wrong with the books in case anyone missed it.
Now, I'm going to go purchase this trilogy!
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 30, 2009
This is the 2nd in a series, and when I finished this, I couldn't wait for the 3rd (and final) book to come out. I found the book to be quite enlightening about life in the time depicted. The author did a lot of research prior to writing the series and does a wonderful job letting the reader know, at the end of the book, what is fact, what is based on fact, and what is totally conjectured for the sake of the story (not much). Each of the books has held my interest and I couldn't wait to get back to it at my next chance to grab some reading time.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 26, 2007
What a disappointment after the excellence of Anton's first book, Joheved! This book began like reading a mediocre romance novel and never elevated to more. (Nothing inherently wrong with reading romance novels, included among my reading selections over the years one would find a goodly number of romance novels.....it's just not what I expected from this book and this author.) Where the first book is like a dense, well-woven cloth, this book was like cheap material...Like the difference between 800 thread-count Egyptian cotton bed linens and a set of 180-count cotton/polyester blend. Still, I will most likely read Book 3: Rachel just to see how the author finishes the trilogy. Sadly, it is only intermittently that something new to learn/know about was included in the fabric of the story. And I wonder why the author choose to bring to light certain social issues regarding yeshiva students that many may never have stopped to consider, but, overall, cheap, cheap, cheap! What a disappointment! Redundant and wearing.
1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 28, 2007
Rashi¿s Daughters: Miriam Maggie Anton Review by Art Finkle This second historical novel of a trilogy continues with Rashi¿s 'a 10th century Jewish commentator on scared writings in what is now the Champaign region of France' second daughter, Miriam. The author brings realism of the 10th century social history, no small feat and places the emphasis on women in a patriarchal society. Although many may consider this book targeted to females, it should be read by all. Males should know that sacrifices their wives and mothers made for t heir education, a highly prized commodity during these times. That merchants, vineyard supervisors, jewelers and other what was thought to be traditionally male activities comes as a surprise. Moreover, not only is midwifery involved with the delivery of babies but they also had the very best of medical knowledge. Miriam, as the second daughter of the great thinker continues to involve herself in the study of Talmud, a Jewish process of learning insights 'from the Sages¿ writings from the 1st century onward', and making rulings on real-life situations. Such study was a male¿s role but since Rashi, a born teacher, only had daughters, he taught this arduous process to all of his daughters. There were also vignettes that bespoke the unique personality of Rashi, who collaborated with the Cardinal from the Christian community to interpret difficult passages from the original Hebrew the role of semi-annual Fairs that promoted commerce and communication of all kinds and the large role of superstition. Overall, this novel captures social history and the Talmudic process in an extraordinary way. Plus the book is a great read.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 5, 2011
Posted April 4, 2010
Although the writing style is engaging, the author uses sacred texts to drive a plot replete with graphic sexuality, misused superstition,Roman and Greek astrology and mythology and intense homosexuality. She had Rashi's daughter ingest a potion made from non-kosher beetles. Such chutzpah! This is definitely NOT for someone knowledgeable or someone who supports traditional family values. This is misinformation couched in research to create harmful fictional characters.
0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 12, 2009
This is the longest of the three books by Maggie Anton. I found it tedious to get through, because it was too much like a never-ending soap opera. Anton teaches us a lot about the role of women as midwives, about the known and mysterious medications that were universally in vogue in the 11th Century, about the practice of medicine by the physicians, and about the restricted role that Jewish women could play in performing some of the prescribed religious rituals. She spends a great deal of time dealing with the homosexual tendencies and practices among the Rabbis and their students.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 12, 2009
I enjoyed this book tremendously. It gives a glimpse into a life that I know nothing about. Detailing the every day life of this time period and the use of real characters give the book life. I can't wait to read the next book in the trilogy.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 19, 2007
Miriam is a wonderful continuation from Jehoved. Ms. Anton's writing style is captivating, as I read Miriam. . .I felt like I was right in the middle of the story. I would suggest this book for anyone to read. I learned, I laughed, I cried, I connected. Read this book, you will love it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2007
The first book in this series, Johoved, was a wonderful historical fiction book full of lots of Jewish character of the period and a bit of romance spice. Instead of continuing in the same fashion, this second book is focused on homosexual tension between yeshivah students. There was just enough new historical background 'much less than the first book' to keep me reading it to the end, but I was very disappointed in the book. I wish I had stopped at Johoved.
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Posted January 21, 2011
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