Thursday, August 28, 2008

Another Good Book

I finished a book by Rebecca Kohn today. It's The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther. Ms Kohn is obviously a scholar, and the story is riveting.

Her discussion questions at the end were thought provoking. She mentioned Purim, the celebration of Queen Esther's saving her people, and the triumph of sorrow over mourning. Then she asked if in our ancestry we could see such stories and if women still, well, got their power, from beauty.

I consider myself a Yankee, but had some Southern ancestors. There's a story of one at the end of the Civil War, when Jeannie (Jeanne?), a young pregnant widow, defied Yankee renegades who had crossed swords at the door of the family's store, which had been set on fire. She ran under the swords to get a bolt of muslin to cover the wagon that would take the family west.

As she came out, one of the soldiers grabbed her by the hair and said, "If you weren't such a pretty little thing, I'd cut off your head!"

Mother and I always thought the soldier was teasing, but now who knows?

But, as the story goes, Jeannie got what little "power" she had from her beauty.

The family came west, she had her baby, and that's part of my history.

I think that now women still get power from their attractiveness, but so do men. More and more, though, I think women get power from their management skills and intelligence. Being a good conversationalist is badly underrated as a power tool in my society.

Esther, as portrayed in Kohn's book, "goes along to get along". We all do now, too.

Men and women are largely wired differently. I know we're all people, but I do think men, at least of my age (56) and older, tend to think of "who's winning" while women are more into negotiating.

Esther had a lot of negotiating skills, and really, her beauty was part of that.

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