Idyllwild resident author Joy Sikorski, writing with co-author Michael Silversher, changes the fare for this fourth season of Eduardo Santiago’s Idyllwild Authors Series when she and Silversher present their biblical historical novel, “Tamar of the Terebinths” (Whispering Voices Publications, 2013). It is the first time the series has featured an historical biblical novel.
Sikorski calls the tale, taken from Genesis 38, “The greatest love story never told.” Promotional copy for the series and the book features Tamar’s voice, “I am Tamar. You know almost nothing about me … except that I disguised myself as a prostitute to seduce my father-in-law, Judah, Jacob’s fourth son, so that I could hold him to his legal obligation to marry me to his third son.”
Sikorski’s passion for this story of a strong woman who does what she needs to do to survive in a highly rigid and patriarchal society is evident. She describes how Tamar’s relationship with Judah, the biblical patriarch whose lineage would become the cornerstone of ancient Israel — the oak or terebinth upon which a kingdom would be founded — came at a pivotal time in his development. Judah’s decision to spare Tamar’s life after discovering her deceit and his admission, “She is more righteous than I,” was something never heard in a social milieu where men were absolutely dominant and women subservient.
Asked why they chose this topic and this story on which to base their research and novel, Sikorski said, “What grabs me about the Judah and Tamar story is why such a short tale packs such a huge wallop and yet rarely gets discussed in depth. I mean, here is rape, murder, deception and incest in the Bible [Old Testament], as well as many other dark subjects, yet few people seem to want to talk much about it. Sure, these are terribly uncomfortable subjects, but getting dark secrets out into the open allows wounds to heal, for everyone, in any era.”
She said when she and Silversher were writing the book, the cries of Tamar and the women of that time seemed to be shouting, “Give us a voice.” “I wanted to give voices to these silenced women, voices lost on the wind, and tell the story of Tamar and the impact she had on Judah, one of the most important figures in the Bible,” she said. “Tamar was the catalyst for Judah to become the lynchpin of the 12 tribes of Israel. Without her it would not have happened.”
Said Silversher about the characters in the novel and the writing process, “It is such an enigmatic story, filled with lust, deceit and betrayal that all works toward something good, life-affirming and redeeming. It struck us right away as an important piece in the puzzle of who we are as human beings and what our lives mean in the grand scheme of things. It deserved a new retelling and from a modern point of view.”
Sikorski and Silversher share backgrounds in music and theater. Given the epic character of the story and their own backgrounds, the authors hope to create a grand opera based on the material from their planned trilogy.
Series founder Eduardo Santiago will interview Sikorski and Silversher at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 29, on the deck of Cafe Aroma. There is no charge for this event. Because seating is limited, and audiences this fourth season have been standing-room-only, Santiago advised arriving early.