Welcome, Anna Patricio to talk about her new book ASENATH.
by Anna Patricio
Mention Joseph to anyone the street and they will be able to tell you,
"He's the dreamer. The one with the coat of many colours. The one who
can interpret dreams." Some will even say, "The one in that
technicolour musical," which I personally don't care for much.
(I prefer the movies 'In The Beginning' and 'Joseph King of Dreams,' both
excellent portrayals of Joseph.)
But mention Asenath, and the reaction you will most likely get is, "Who's that?"
Indeed, hardly anyone knows about Asenath, and that is probably
because she is mentioned very briefly, eclipsed by her famous dreamer
husband. Whenever I tell people I have written about her, the reaction
I get most of the time is, "I didn't know Joseph had a wife!" If I got
a dollar every time that remark was made...
So why write about this little-known, obscure, voiceless name from the
Book of Genesis? Actually, the fact that she is little-known and
obscured provides great potential for fiction. Because barely anything
is known about Asenath, I am thus at liberty to stretch my imagination
as far as I please. All we are told about her is that she married
Joseph after he successfully interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. So I filled
in the (huge) gaps before and after that event.
That is just the surface, however. My other and more crucial reason
for writing about Asenath stems from my interest in Joseph, which
began when I was still a student.
I had known about Joseph's story all my life, what with having
attended Sunday school and all. But it was later on when some dramatic
changes took place in my life - entering university plus my sister
needing surgery - that I came to realise what a powerful and moving
tale this is. Until then, I thought of Joseph as some distant figure
from a far-off time and place. But when I came across his story again
after the abovementioned events came to pass, I realised just how much
I could relate to him. I admired how he maintained his strength and
integrity, despite the numerous travails that befell him. Really, when
you think about it: first his mother died when he was only 8 (or so),
then he was sold into slavery, and then imprisoned for a crime he
didn't commit. That's a terrible burden to bear. But he survived it
all and emerged as a very seasoned man. I love how people often
summarise Joseph's Cinderella-esque tale as "from the pit to the
throne" because - well - that's what it really was.
My admiration for Joseph then drove me to delve deeper into his story.
I read everything I could get my hands on. First I began with Biblical
commentaries and studies, then later discovered more interesting
accounts, such as Jewish folktales and Persian epic poems.
Along the way, I grew curious about his wife Asenath. I wanted to know
what sort of women married so strong and admirable a person as he. But
when I looked her up, I found hardly anything on her. Oh, I found a
few ancient tales such as the Greek 'Joseph and Asenath' which has as
its theme Asenath's conversion to Judaism. But other than that,
nothing. Nothing to tell me of her childhood, her marriage to Joseph,
her family with Joseph etc.
I came across some contemporary fiction of Joseph, but I wasn't too
satisfied with how Asenath was portrayed, mostly because she wasn't
given much attention by the writers. She was almost always in the
background. When I didn't find anything I wanted to read about her, I
then thought to write something myself.
I played around with ideas for about two years. Then the ideas took
shape in the first draft of the manuscript, which I then worked on for
3 years. And now, after nearly another year of seeking publication,
'Asenath' has finally materialised.
Find ASENATH here:
Learn more about Anna on her website.