What she reads: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

in the dream house by carmen maria machado

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado is a memoir unlike any other: it is not just centered around Machado’s past abusive relationship – it also portrays the nuances and dynamics of queer relationships not often contextualized, made invisible and ignored.

Following the success of her debut collection of short stories Her Body and Other Parties, Machado’s In the Dream House is her riveting account of a past relationship that traces the contours of love and abuse between women. While Her Body explored the ways women love each other with elements of psychological realism and science fiction, In the Dream House captured the simultaneous tenderness and abuse present in Machado’s tenuous relationship with the boyish, blonde and blue-eyed writer from the Dream House.

Machado uses the “Dream House” as the lens with which to view many facets of her relationship, as well as to describe her own experiences, emotional states and other landscapes.

What’s particularly intense about this story is that the love story isn’t your typical love story after all – it’s a queer romance rife with the highs and lows of any relationship, but also rife with abuse, gaslighting and homophobia.

What’s uplifting though is that in spite of how it all turned out, Machado came out of that relationship with a kind of unexpected sweetness. This is perhaps one of the most illuminating things in the book, that other bookstagrammers are also appreciating. Check out what they have to say about In the Dream House:

@lupita.reads

“I met one of my all-time favorite authors for the first time ever last night and as you can tell in this photo – I blushed as well as geeked out to no end. There was a time I didn’t realize I could actually meet the authors of the books I loved. In fact, it wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I “discovered” that independent bookstores ran events to help you learn more about the books you love and the people who write them. With every event I attend or now moderate I can’t help but to get emotional and feel utterly grateful to indie bookstores for making events like these possible. Thank you @politicsprose for every single event you all bring to DC but particularly for this moment here!”


@clumsy.words

“Quickly now, pick up this book! Carmen Machado’s In the Dream House is sharp, achingly honest, breathtaking, brilliant and so rare that my only advice would be to stop reading what you’re reading right now and pick this up instead. In the Dream House is a love story that devolves over time into a broken, brutal version of itself. It’s told in brief vignettes, each under the header of a different story structure: Dream House as a math problem, Dream House as a déjà vu, Dream House as idiom. But, perhaps most essential to this book is the slow burn study of abuse, and specifically abuse in the queer community. At one point Machado writes: “Queer folks fail each other too. This seems like an obvious thing to say (… ) intracommunity loyalty only goes so far.” But it’s a truth she struggles with herself, in her own relationship, where she’s so terrified of tarnishing hard-won acceptance that she stays silent. Anyway, an easy five star read for me, let me know if you give it a go.”


@theardentbiblio

“Five stars. I don’t even quite know how to talk about this one yet, but it was one of the most unique and powerful things I’ve read in a long while.

The structure was something that easily could have come off campy but instead functioned to give the reader access to the story on multiple levels all at once, deftly tying together court cases, research, cultural commentary, literary tropes, pop culture references and personal experience in this amazingly clear and literary style. The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ section was especially horrifying, and a perfectly deployed literary device.

Machado writes about her experience in a relationship that grows grotesque and abusive in a way that is both straightforward and fractured, but always, ALWAYS operating fluidly on multiple levels. The story is dark and brutally honest as the messy process of engaging in and then extricating from this relationship is represented so fully in its pain and chaos, yet is so cuttingly clear. It’s so hard to explain, but the overall effect is of this stunningly emotional and personal story rooted concretely in a broader context through a completely genius and unique structure. Brilliantly done, @carmenmmachado… “


@latinasleyendo

“Carmen Maria Machado caught reader’s imaginations with her short story collection Her Body and Other Parties which blended genres and styles to give us a truly creepy, queer and, feminist journey through everything from fairy tales to Law and Order SVU. This time Machado returns to give us a singularly powerful memoir, although it is hard to classify this multifaceted work under just one category. It is a kaleidoscopic view of a queer relationship gone wrong. It shatters the silence on the myth that lesbian relationships are always safe harbors and examines the decent from love to abuse through various archetypal lenses. Honestly, I am only about 50 pages in and I already feel like I can’t tear myself away but also I have already had to put it down to keep myself together while reading it. In her sophomore work, Machado has hit the target dead center for me and I am honestly blown away by what Machado has produced. I hope to have a more coherent and thorough review once I’m done and have sorted through this emotional punch-to-the-heart of a book, but for now, I’ll just say that if you are looking for a wholly original (both in style and content), important and powerful memoir this one absolutely deserves a spot on your shelf!”


@postgradreads

“‘If you need this book, it is for you.’
So begins Carmen Maria Machado’s haunting memoir In the Dream House. I knew this would be a harrowing read as it details Machado’s abusive relationship with a former partner. But I still did not expect the gut-punching, raw emotion of it all. The fragmented, almost experimental form did not distract from Machado’s vulnerability; rather it emphasized, nurtured, and revealed it. This isn’t just a memoir – it’s called genre-defying for a reason. Within these pages, Machado weaves together an archive of the complexities of abuse in queer relationships, particularly between women. It is utterly heartbreaking and unputdownable. A force of nature. I expected a lot from this book given the attention it’s receiving as well as my love for Machado’s short story collection and yet it still blew my mind.”

*Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links. These picks are editorially selected, but if you purchase, She Reads may get something in return. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. 

Pia Cortez

Contributing Editor

Pia Cortez is a writer and a book blogger based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the creator and curator of the book blog Libromance, where she publishes book reviews and other literary features with a queer, Filipino immigrant perspective. She is currently a contributor for Lambda Literary, New Life Quarterly, Positively Filipino and Hella Pinay. When she’s not writing, reading or reviewing books, she’s working on Booklook, a project on the intersection of literature and fashion. You can also find Pia surfing in Pacifica, or somewhere in the Bay on the hunt for the next best Filipino fusion food.

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