Interviewed by John Haggerty

Read Lauren Hooker’s fiction piece, Offering

John: I love your treatment here of sin and its expiation through sacrifice—things that seem to me to be particularly Christian preoccupations. If the narrator had been raised in some other environment—a Buddhist monastery, say—would things have gone better for her or the family? Or are her actions a reflection of her innate nature?

Lauren: Thank you! That’s an interesting question. To me, Christianity isn’t the most significant aspect of her upbringing in the convent, it’s the fact that she doesn’t belong there, and she knows it. And that sense of alienation definitely influences the way things turn out for her and the family.

What is your position on original sin? Do you think humans basically good or evil?

The idea of original sin was weirdly compelling to me when I was a kid, and even though I don’t consciously believe in it anymore, I think it’s hard to ever fully rid yourself of beliefs you had when you were little. Intellectually, I don’t know if I think humans are basically anything, but I think it’s better to operate on the assumption that we’re basically good.

The narrator claims to have been born without instincts, and yet she unerringly finds the object that the children would value most, and that the mother would be most opposed to giving. Do you think she is lying to herself, or us?

That’s a good point! There are places in the story where I don’t know if she’s lying, and I don’t really want to know; I like seeing it both ways. That said, I do think the gift she gives at the end is an honest gesture.

The Bible has some pretty detailed instructions on offerings to God. If you were to make a sacrifice to him/her/it, what would it be and why?

Can my answer be that I wouldn’t make one? Haha. But I don’t think of offerings and sacrifices as the same thing really. I associate sacrifices with fear and coercion, whereas I think of offerings as freely given, with no expectation of anything in return. I’m a big fan of offerings, sacrifices not so much.

Alternately, If you could offer a figurative lock of hair to anyone, who and what would it be? From whom would you most like to receive one?

This doesn’t quite answer your question, but I’m thinking about what Simone Weil says about attention as an act of love. I see attention as a kind of offering too, maybe the best kind. At any rate, the kind I’d most like to give and receive.