Maggie Anton’s new novel weaves tales of sorcery in ancient times


Maggie Anton’s new novel weaves tales of sorcery

Maggie Anton

Reader fascination with all things magical in modern literature continues — from the Harry Potter novels to most recently, Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches.

Modern witches may be fantastical, yet history reveals that in third-century Babylonia, in the land where the word “magic” originated, real life enchantresses used incantations for everyday needs and desires.

Novelist Maggie Anton, author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series, shares a young woman’s entry into this world of ancient sorcery in Rav Hisda’s Daughter Book I: Apprentice (Plume Original; August 2012; $16)

As Rome battles Zoroastrian Persia for dominance, Babylonia is in conflict. Amid the turmoil, Talmudic sage Rav Hisda and his colleagues struggle to establish new Jewish traditions after the destruction of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. Hisdadukh, Rav Hisda’s beautiful and learned daughter, is coming of age. As a child, when asked which of her father’s two best students — Rami or Abba — she wished to marry, she shockingly answered, “both.”

Maggie Anton’s new novel weaves tales of sorcery Precluded from Torah studies because of gender, Hisdadukh embarks on the torturous path to become a charasheta, or enchantress, under the tutelage of her brother’s wife, Rahel.

Soon Hisdadukh marries the older Rami and is caught up in marriage and motherhood, although it is clear that Abba has not lost interest in her. When her newfound happiness is derailed by a series of tragedies, a grieving Hisdadukh must decide if her path lies in the way of sorcery, despite the peril.

With Rav Hisda’s Daughter Book I: Apprentice, Anton brings ancient Babylonia to life from a woman’s perspective — weaving historical detail with complex characters for an engaging story of love and faith.

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Maggie Anton is the awardwinning author of historical fiction series Rashi’s Daughters and Rav Hisda’s Daughter as well as a Talmud scholar with expertise in Jewish women’s history. She was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, CA, where she still resides.

Raised in a secular household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. In the early 1990s, Anton began studying in a women’s Talmud class taught by feminist theologian Rachel Adler. Twenty years later, she continues her learning individually and with a study-partner.

Anton will appear in conjunction with the Jewish Book Fair on Jan. 10, 7 p.m., at the Dave and Mary Alper JCC, 11155 SW 112 Ave. in Kendall.

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