It is approximate 1,800 BCE. We are in the city of Sippar on the banks of the Euphrates in ancient Sumeria. In those days, people who needed to communicate wrote cuneiform characters on clay tablets. (Imagine how heavy it must have been for the postman:)
Iltani, our protagonist, is about 15 years old. Like many unusual women, she has a father who gives her an education, and encourages her to think about becoming a scribe. The problem? She is a woman, and this profession is dominated by men.
Naturally the male scribes are allowed to lead a normal life, have a wife and family as well as scribe. But if you are a woman, you are compelled to make a choice – at the age of 15 – between having a normal life (husband and family) OR becoming a celibate for the rest of your life, living in monastic surroundings, seeing your family only rarely.
But Iltani is fascinated by things and naturally curious. The mundane does not seem right for her. And so she chooses…to become a celibate so that she can become a scribe.
Of course things do not go according to plan.
This is a well-written piece by someone who is an expert in this area. Four stars.