• Birth—July 10, 1949
• Where—New York, New York, USA
• Education—B.A., Brooklyn College; M.A., Hebrew University
• Currently—lives in Jerusalme, Israel
Naomi Ragen is the author of seven novels, including several international bestsellers, and her weekly email columns on life in the Middle East are read and distributed by thousands of subscribers worldwide. An American, she has lived in Jerusalem for the past thirty-nine years and was recently voted one of the three most popular authors in Israel. (From the publisher.)
Ragen’s first three novels, which described the lives of ultra-Orthodox Jewish women in Israel and the United States, dealt with themes that had not previously been addressed in that society's literature: wife-abuse (Jephte’s Daughter: 1989), adultery (Sotah: 1992) and rape (The Sacrifice of Tamar: 1995). Reaction to these novels in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox communities was mixed. Some hailed her as a pioneer who for the first time exposed and opened to public discussion problems which the communities had preferred to pretend did not exist, while others criticized her for “hanging out the dirty laundry” for everyone to see, thus embarrassing the rabbis who were believed by many to be effectively dealing with these problems “behind the scenes” and also putting “ammunition in the hands of the anti-Semites.”
Her next novel (The Ghost of Hannah Mendes: 1998) told the story of a Sephardic family brought back from the abyss of assimilation by the spirit of their ancestor Gracia Mendes (a true historical figure), a 16th century Portuguese crypto-Jew who risked her life and her considerable fortune to practice her religion in secret.
Chains Around the Grass (2002) is a semi-autobiographical novel of the author’s childhood which dealt with the failure of the American dream for her parents.
In The Covenant (2004) Ragen dealt with the contemporary theme of an ordinary family sucked into the horror of Islamic terrorism.
The Saturday Wife (2007), the story of a rabbi's wayward wife, is loosely based on Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and is a satire of modern Jewish Orthodoxy.
Ragen is also known as a playwright. Her 2001 drama, Women’s Minyan, tells the story of an ultra-Orthodox woman who, upon fleeing from her adulterous and abusive husband, finds that he has manipulated the rabbinical courts to deprive her of the right to see or speak to her twelve children. The story is based on a true incident. Women’s Minyan ran for six years in Israel's National Theatre and has been staged in the United States, Canada and Argentina. (From Wikipedia.)
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