Mother’s Day is nearly here, and what better way to celebrate than with the original voices of female struggle and triumph? Check out “Meet Me at the Well: The Girls and Women of the Bible,” a new book by Caldecott medalist Jane Yolen and noted children’s author and librarian Barbara Diamond Goldin. The Western Massachusetts duo teamed up to spotlight Old Testament tales of women who have been overshadowed in male-centric religious texts.


They focus on 14 women in nine chapters, analyzing what makes them heroic and courageous, from Eve to Yael to Queen Esther. It’s a comprehensive but easily accessible read: Each chapter is devoted to a single story, complemented by sidebars (known in Jewish tradition as midrashim) that pose questions and offer nondenominational interpretations. Yolen contributes a poem to each chapter, and Diamond adds an imagined retelling from each female character’s point of view. Think of it like a page of Talmud or a Haggadah, with Cliff’s Notes.

“Via 14 stories that range from Eve, the first woman and mother, to Esther, who becomes savior and queen of her people, readers learn about these and other complicated subjects including marriage, motherhood, infertility, widowhood and inheritance, as well as female roles and experiences as judge, prophet and leader,” according to a starred Kirkus review.

Barbara Diamond Goldin (Courtesy photo)

Yolen calls it “a modern midrash for young readers about the girls and women of the Hebrew Bible.”

“We’re teasing out women’s stories. The women’s roles are so closed down and so hidden behind the men,” Yolen says. “We all know that those women have been venerated for centuries. We don’t know why, if we just read the Bible.”

She cites the example of Yael in the Book of Judges, who stabs Canaanite general Sisera, seeking shelter from battle in her tent.

Jane Yolen (Courtesy photo)

“There’s no reason why someone would understand the story of Yael and why she killed a man in her tent, unless you know that he went to her tent without permission,” Yolen explains. They tease out these previously mysterious or unheralded stories.

The pair will promote the book on May 3 at Brookline’s Kolbo Fine Judaica Gallery, and they’ve made regular appearances at synagogues with enthusiastic audiences.

“People appreciate that the focus is on women, because they haven’t seen anything like it. We’re bringing women forward, and our audiences have said that it’s a wonderful thing for their own daughters to read about strong women,” Goldin says.

Read more here.

(Courtesy photo)
(Courtesy photo)