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CBC Interview: The Woman Who Named God

January 2, 2009

This was my first opportunity to talk about the new book.You can listen to it here — CBC INTERVIEW. I focused on the essential elements of the story — Hagar’s bravery, Sarah’s intelligence, Abraham’s divided loyalties, the dark history of the conflict between the two women, and the hope that by grappling with these complexities we can work toward peace. I also spoke about how this story began as a personal obsession. I re-read the Biblical passages and studied the commentary as part of my own attempt to untangle the many problematic differences I had encountered in modern religious traditions. Also, I was interested in grappling with history of women in the Bible and the Koran. However, the moment we sent troops into Iraq, I realized that I had to tell this story in a more public forum, because right there, in modern Baghdad, the Sarah/Hagar conflict was being re-enacted: the sons of Sarah were battling the sons of Hagar — and no one seemed to realize it. My hope is that by re-telling the story, we can work toward understanding its many complexities and thereby achieve some kind of redemption. After all, all three monotheistic religions trace their heritage to this family, even though we are so different from one another. And, interestingly enough, the Bible tells us that Isaac and Ishmael, the sons of Hagar and Sarah never contributed to this violent legacy. They come together to bury their father, shoulder to shoulder. There is hope, then, in the tale. The brothers do not continue the quarrel of their mothers. Instead, they work together in peace.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Carolyn Cooke permalink
    January 5, 2009 12:02 pm


    You are brilliant. I love the way you begin with the personal journey toward understanding the father and end by proving that TWWNG is the must-read story for understanding feminism & Islam, the U.S. siege on Baghdad and for creating peace in the middle east. (It is, it is!) This is just the right tone, just the right mix of intellectual rigor and story-interest.
    You were right to do this early & get your story straight.

    Love, Carolyn

  2. January 5, 2009 1:11 pm

    Your comment was learned and compassionate, however it displays a perspective that is too commom in the west.

    First the west often confuses ethnicity with religion. Asia minor, compared to North America, is almost an anthropological Grand Central Station. It is incredible the number of nations peoples races and religions that have existed there over the last several millenia. Yet it is no melting pot, and loyalties to ancient cultures persist.

    Iraq, aside from the isalmic sectarian differences, also adheres to ancient ethnic ties. Saddam saw himself as a revival of one of those those ancient Chaldean emperors. This rivalry dominated the relationship with his fellow iraqi’s to the North (Kurds) and South (Marsh Arabs). Many Iranians see themselves as Persians first.

    The first five books of the western bible describe just what it takes for one person to become a great family, then a great people, then a great nation (just about to become a great country). However sibling rivally was threat from the beginning. Even if many in the Middle East were to remember that many are brothers under Abraham, this may only redirect frustration from religious or ethnic dissent to sibling divisiveness. Hard to say which may be worse!

    As it happen, Israel, like many nations has had it’s share of civil war. Had not Jacob’s sons been allowed to grow their families under sometimes harsh Pharoahs, would the people have been destroyed by tribal warfare before it had a chance to become a nation?

    You do a great interview. Your book goes on a growing reading list of mine.

  3. Jessica Panko permalink
    July 13, 2009 2:26 am

    Congratulations, Charlotte! I am looking forward to reading more.

  4. July 13, 2009 10:14 pm

    SO Nice to hear from you! Thanks, Jess.

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