We recently published Lior Torenberg’s stunning “Je Dévore.” Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I fell in love with the first sentence of this story: “My mother taught housewives how to bake, and then she died.” The baking is such an important thing for the narrator to try to learn about their mother, and those little high heels too. They seem like such unconnected things, baking, wearing high heels. How do you feel they become part of the same thing for the narrator?
The heels, the baking – they’re symbols of femininity. My narrator idolizes his mother as a representative of the ideal woman without acknowledging what she gave up to acquire those totems, and how restrictive they can often be. For Marge/Margaux (and for everyone) femininity is a performance, a costume, just like it is for the narrator later in his life. The difference is that, for Marge, it is confining, but for the narrator, it is freeing.
2) The section with the changing of names is very powerful — it seems expected to be “American” that you must have an American name. The mother goes from Margaux to Marge — do you think she lost a piece of herself with that change, the way she lost her French?
I think Margaux did lose a piece of herself by switching to Marge, but to be more specific: she willingly gave up a piece of herself in exchange for something else. Cultural capital, belonging, the avoidance of potential discrimination. She had found a new life for herself and wanted to immerse herself fully in it. I want to emphasize that, at the time, she was excited to do so. When I moved to America, there was a while when I wanted to go by Lori instead of Lior. It’s only later that you realize what you’ve given up. The narrator tries to pay tribute to his mother by allowing her to live after her death as someone free and unapologetically Margaux.