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Dinas Lost TribeReviewed by BERNIE BELLAN
Why do some books create a real buzz while others don’t? Is it based on the quality of the book; on the way it’s publicized; or is it perhaps just a matter of timing or luck?

Those questions have always intrigued me, especially after I’ve finished reading a book that I thought was especially good, but for one reason or another never sold many copies.
Such was the case with a book that was recently sent to our office by a publicist who had initially contacted me asking whether I would be interested in reading a particular book titled “Dina’s Lost Tribe”. I said I would, but when the book arrived in our office I was surprised to see that it had actually been published in 2010. I wondered, therefore, why was the publicist trying to promote the book in 2016? I contacted the publicist, whose name was Jennifer Uebelhack, and asked her that question. Jennifer suggested I ask the question of the author herself, a woman by the name of Brigitte Goldstein. So, I sent the following email to Brigitte Goldstein:

Hi Ms. Goldstein,
I’ve been reading your book, which was sent to me by Jennifer Uebelhack - and I’m loving it, but I asked Jennifer why, if the book was first released in 2010, it’s taken six years for the book to be sent out to publications such as mine (The Jewish Post & News, Winnipeg’s Jewish newspaper)?
My guess is that either you or the publisher thought that the book might receive more attention upon its re-release? Am I right in that? Jennifer suggested I contact you directly to ask you that question.
I must say that I’m captivated by your use of language. I plan on reviewing your book in our April 13 issue.

Brigitte Goldstein replied the next day:
Dear Bernie Bellan,
Thank you so much for contacting me. Your good words about my novel “Dina’s Lost Tribe” are much appreciated. The answer to your question why it took so long to get it out to various Jewish publications has a somewhat disheartening background story. When the book was first published, I invested a large sum of money in its promotion on the assumption that if you cast your bread upon the waters. . . . you know. It didn’t happen. The publicist I hired then did very little in return and the results were meager to say the least. I entered the book in contests and it did very well. Also if you take a look at the reviews on Amazon you will find them quite favorable. I did some readings here in New Jersey at temple sisterhoods and people who actually read the book liked it. But the sales were not very encouraging, so I moved onto my next novel, which I published myself. I am now in the middle of my fifth novel. I still believe in the Dina book and thought it would be worth giving it another try with another publicist. Jennie Uebelhack has done good work as is evident from your response.
With kind regards,
Brigitte Goldstein

So, there it is: Even though “Dina’s Lost Tribe” received quite good reviews (There are 20 reviews of the book by readers on Amazon for instance, and they’re almost all quite effusive in their praise for the book), it didn’t sell well the first go round. As Brigitte Goldstein notes: “The publicist I hired then did very little in return and the results were meager to say the least.”
I suppose that, just like movies and restaurants, books need well crafted publicity in order to sell well. But, to be honest, there seems to be a surfeit of excellent books that have Jewish themes – heck, we get so many books sent our way and I can only read a small portion of them myself, that I can really feel for someone like Brigitte Goldstein.
She’s a brilliant writer – as seem to be so many other Jewish women authors these days, and her subject matter is riveting: The story of a lost tribe descended from a Jewish woman in the 13th century who had been abducted and impregnated by a Catholic priest.
As I also noted in my email to Ms. Goldstein, her book compares favourably with two other books that I read recently, also historical fiction set in a period not too far removed from “Dina’s Lost Tribe”: “The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi” and its sequel, “The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi”, by Jacqueline Park, both set in the 16th century.
“Dina’s Lost Tribe”, however, tells several intertwined stories – only one of which is set in the 13th century. The other stories take place during the period leading up to the Second World War, then the 1970s and finally, the early 1990s.

The setting for most of the book is a remote part of southern France in the Pyrenee Mountains. The Dina of the book is a woman whose true name is Miryam, and whose family is caught up in the first expulsion of Jews from France in 1278. Goldstein, whose primary occupation is as a professor of European history, incorporates a detailed knowledge, not only of European Jewish history, but of some lesser known facets of European history, such as the mysterious Cathar apostasy.
I note that none of the other reviews that I read of “Dina’s Lost Tribe” touched upon this particular aspect of the book; while the Cathar apostasy doesn’t play all that prominent a role in the book, I was fascinated by Goldstein’s description of the Inquisition’s relentless pursuit of Cathar “heretics”, almost always leading to their cold blooded murder – either by the sword or by burning at the stake. As much as we’re aware of how much Jews were persecuted during the Inquisition – and almost every period of European history for that matter, let’s not forget that the history of Christianity is replete with Christians massacring each other as well.
As the story develops –and we learn more about “Dina”, it seems that she’s left a diary of her life, which becomes the focal point of the book. Three 20th century scholars happen to come into possession of Dina’s diary, which is in the form of a codex (a collection of hand-written sheets of parchment or paper) written in a language known as “Occitan”. The letters of the codex, however, are in Hebrew – which is an immediate clue to the three individuals tasked with translating the codex that Dina was a Jewess.
Two of the three scholars also share another significant characteristic. They are cousins whose parents fled pre-war Nazi Germany to France, but then were forced to flee France as well. As their parents make their way south through France – eventually finding themselves in the Pyrenees, they are rescued by shepherds who are able to escort them to safety in Spain. As it turns out, the shepherds themselves are descendants of Dina – although they have no idea that they are of Jewish ancestry. They practice certain rituals that bear a strong resemblance to some Jewish rituals, especially ones pertaining to Friday night observance.
Even more mysteriously, these shepherds also live in a hidden settlement known as “Valladine” that has remained hidden from the outside world for over 700 years. As the three scholars work on translating Dina’s codex, they also come into contact with Valladine. What happens is quite suspenseful, as the residents of Valladine find themselves inadvertently exposed to the outside world as a result of their contact with the scholars.
“Dina’s Lost Tribe” is both a mystery that unravels and a deeply illuminating examination of certain facets of European history. I found myself riveted by Goldstein’s writing style. She knows how to educate and entertain at the same time.
Considering that so many of the books that we’ve been discussing in the Rady JCC’s “People of the Book” club have been historical fiction – written by women, this book would fit well into that genre. Also, I’d be curious to hear from others, if they were to read “Dina’s Lost Tribe”, whether they think it should have sold more copies than it apparently did when it was first published six years ago. Perhaps other book clubs might consider adding it to their list of titles for next season. I should also note that used copies of the book are widely available on Amazon, as well as its being available for the Kindle.
Finally, it would make a great summertime read if anyone is looking for a good mystery with a Jewish theme.

“Dina’s Lost Tribe”
By Brigitte Goldstein
iUniverse, Inc. New York
Published 2010, 402 pages

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#1 Mr.alan levenson 2016-04-18 23:01
I just finished reading this book because Brigitte became my Facebook friend, I thought it was very interesting and I was happy to find it.It`s funny - I`m reading about the inquistion in "The Day of Atonement: by David Liss. Both books complement one another.