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LOVE ME TENDER by Constance Debré
Translated by Holly James
Few writers bowl me over with the sheer intensity of their auto-fiction like Édouard Louis. Every word that guy writes is a stab in the kishkes, with a few extra twists of the blade for good measure. And so it was that, a few pages into Constance Debré’s incendiary novel, Love Me Tender, I was surprised to feel a creepily familiar tingling in my gut. And I was totally there for it. This book is fire: a fierce repudiation of societal expectations, an unapologetic embrace of sexuality and sensuality and straight up carnality. I dunno. Maybe it’s a French thing.
Love Me Tender charts Debre’s lesbian awakening which, in her case, necessarily involves alienation from almost every aspect of her former life. Between passionate but fleeting sexual encounters, she navigates a very ugly fallout with her ex-husband, rejection by (and, of) her young son and what can only be described as a socio-legal crucifixion. That she responds to it all with a defiant middle finger makes for explosive reading. And while much of it is confronting, Debré weathers the storm, leaving us with a note of hope for her, and for the now-teenaged boy. Tender, indeed.
Love Me Tender by Constance Debré (Tr. Holly James)
Tuskar Rock Books, 2023