“People love an idea, even if they don’t know what to do with it. Even if they only know how to do exactly the wrong thing,” (Machado 228).
In her memoir, Carmen Maria Machado finds the words, after years and difficulty, to articulate what it was like being in an abusive same-sex relationship. Part fairy-tale, horror story, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure as well as a number of tropes to cleverly and concisely detail the abuse she endured, Machado’s memoir is a unique and unforgettable classic.
Despite only reading a couple of Machado’s short stories, I’ve been obsessed with her work. Her voice is like a modern day queer Shirley Jackson and I am here for it. I’ve heard a lot about In the Dream House, and if I’m honest when I first heard about the book I didn’t know it was a memoir. The cover and title are unlike most memoirs I’ve seen, and the way it’s written fully sets it apart from most nonfiction. But learning that it was a memoir, and the difficult experience Machado writes about, I was intrigued to read it because as Machado notes in In the Dream House tales of abuse between same-sex couples is largely ignored historically as well as in the queer community.
I’m amazed by how expertly Machado uses tropes to head each chapter of her memoir. It’s not something I can fully explain but something that reader’s need to experience. She did so much research for her own memoir to make sure every trope fit perfectly. And that’s not even mentioning the research Machado did on abuse in queer relationships! It’s clear that Machado took a great deal of time and care to find the right words for her book, and she sure found them!
Most chapters of In the Dream House are written in second person, which is a point of view I generally dislike unless it’s done well. I’m here to tell you that Machado succeeds in writing this book in mostly second person, and of course for it’s purpose. The memoir is written to not only put reader’s in Machado’s position as a victim of domestic same-sex abuse, but also as if Machado is speaking to her abused self. There is a care here, fear too, an almost nightmare quality especially noticeable in the “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” section when Machado speaks to the reader, to her abused self. It’s hard to read at times, and at the same time something you can’t take your eyes off of.
In the Dream House is an important memoir of the type of abuse that gets accepted, the kind without bruises or blood, the kind of abuse we need to talk about and acknowledge more. Machado has opened up a conversation especially for queer readers to talk openly about the abuse that exists that is hidden. That it’s okay to talk about, that you aren’t alone, that you don’t deserve to feel hurt.
Publication: November 5 2019
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Pages: 251 pages (Paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, LGTBQ+
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤
For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.