Friday, February 7, 2020

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
Published: November 5th, 2019 by Graywolf Press
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

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.

My Thoughts:

Machado has created something beautiful, haunting, and unusual. She hauntingly describes her abusive relationship. We are thrown into the haunted "dream house" with her. Her chapters are short and she uses each one to brilliant effect. One chapter uses a Choose Your Own Adventure to see if she does something different in her interactions with her partner. It's truly horrifying.

She describes the art of the memoir as " act of resurrection. Memoirists re-create the past, reconstruct dialogue. They summon meaning from events have long been dormant. They braid the clays of memory and essay and fact and perception together, smash into a ball, roll them flat. They manipulate time; resuscitate the dead. They put themselves, and others, into necessary context." She uses all of these devices in each essay, laying bare her expertise, her heart, and her anguish.

A lot of her essays focus on the dearth of resources and first-hand accounts of abuse within lesbian relationships. The stereotypes have been two women together are a utopia! There's nothing wrong here, move along. She describes how being a minority, one has to be twice as good, work twice as hard to be seen as human. But this is a disservice since that means people will have a hard time believing the abuse and recognizing it when it happens. "It's not being radical to point out that people on the fringe have to be better than people in the mainstream, that they have twice as much to prove. In trying to get people to see your humanity, you reveal just that: your humanity.

I'm not queer, I've never been in an abusive relationship, nor experienced abuse in the way that she has and yet Machado writes in such a way to make you experience and feel what she's been through. She makes you care and makes you see how we're all human. Her memoir is one I've never quite experienced before.

I'll end with this quote:

"...our bodies are ecosystems, and they shed and replace and repair until we die. And when we die, our bodies feed the hungry earth, our cells becoming part of other cells, and in the world of the living, where we used to be, people kiss and hold hands and fall in love and fuck and laugh and cry and hurt others and nurse broken hearts and start wars and pull sleeping children out of car seats and shout at each other. If you could harness that energy--that constant, roving hunger--you could do wonders with it. You push the earth inch by inch through the cosmos until it collided heart-first with the sun."

*Linking up with Non-fiction Friday