Diamant was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1951, grew up in Newark, New Jersey until she was twelve years old when her family moved to Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Washington
University in St. Louis with a degree in comparative literature and earned a Master’s in American literature from Binghamton University in upstate New York.
In 1975, she moved to Boston and began a career in journalism, writing for local magazines and newspapers, including the Boston Phoenix, the Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine. She branched out into regional and national media: New England Monthly, Yankee, Self, Parenting, Parents, McCall’s, and Ms. Her feature stories and columns covered a wide variety of topics, from profiles of prominent people and stories about medical ethics, to first-person essays about everything from politics to popular culture to pet ownership to food.
Diamant also wrote about contemporary Jewish practice for Reform Judaism Magazine, Hadassah Magazine, and jewishfamily.com. Her first book, published in 1985, was The New Jewish Wedding, a handbook that combines a contemporary sensibility, respect for tradition and a welcoming prose style. Five other guidebooks to Jewish life and lifecycle events followed: The New Jewish Baby Book; Living a Jewish Life: Jewish Traditions, Customs and Values for Today’s Families: Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends; Saying Kaddish: How To Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead and Mourn as a Jew, and How to Raise a Jewish Child.
In 1997, Diamant published her first work of fiction. Inspired by a few lines from Genesis, The Red Tent tells the story an obscure and overlooked character named Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob and Leah. The Red Tent became a word-of-mouth bestseller thanks to reader recommendations, book groups, and support from independent bookstores. In 2001, the Independent Booksellers Alliance honored The Red Tent as the “Booksense Best Fiction” of the year. The Red Tent has been published in more than 25 countries world wide, including Australia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. In 2014, the novel was adapted as a two-part, four-hour miniseries by Lifetime TV.
Diamant’s second novel, Good Harbor, is a contemporary story that explores the importance of women’s friendships as a source of strength and support through the worst of times: a diagnosis of breast cancer and a foundering marriage. The Last Days of Dogtown is set on Cape Ann in the early 1800s and describes life in a poor, rural community inhabited by widows and spinsters who were suspected as witches, and by freed Africans and orphan children. Day After Night recounts the stories of women who lived through the Holocaust and await the future in a British internment camp in Palestine, before the founding of the state of Israel.
Her new work of fiction is The Boston Girl. Addie Baum is that Boston girl, born in 1900 to immigrant parents who were unprepared for and suspicious of America and its effect on their three daughters. Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine—a world of short skirts, movies, celebrity culture, and new opportunities for women; a world where women finish high school, go to college, have a career, and find true love. The Boston Girl begins when Addie’s twenty-two year old granddaughter asks, “How did you get to be the woman you are today?”
Anita Diamant is the founding president Mayyim Hayyim, Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center in Newton Massachusetts — a reinvention of the ancient Jewish tradition of mikveh, ritual immersion in water. Visit Mayyim Hayyim for more information.