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In the Dream House
Cover of In the Dream House
In the Dream House
A Memoir
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A revolutionary memoir about domestic abuse by the award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado's engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

And it's that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope—the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman—through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.

Machado's dire narrative is leavened with her characteristic wit, playfulness, and openness to inquiry. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek, and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction. The result is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

A revolutionary memoir about domestic abuse by the award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado's engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.

And it's that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope—the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman—through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.

Machado's dire narrative is leavened with her characteristic wit, playfulness, and openness to inquiry. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek, and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction. The result is a wrenching, riveting book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Carmen Maria Machado is the author of Her Body and Other Parties, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize. She lives in Philadelphia with her wife.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2019
    In this daringly structured and ruthlessly inquisitive memoir, Machado (Her Body and Other Parties, 2017) examines an abusive relationship with an eye to both personal truth and cultural assumption. The author begins with a declaration. "I speak into the silence," she says. "I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound." She is writing to record her experience of queer sexuality and intimate psychological violence; by telling her story, she's committing its existence to history. History has largely ignored the queer experience, particularly the existence of domestic abuse between queer women. As Machado points out, when you are invisible from the collective narrative, it is harder to imagine what your own feelings mean. The relationship at the heart of this memoir is resurrected with visceral potency. Instead of tracing her past with linear continuity, the author fractures it, diving into beautifully or painfully remembered moments with a harrowing emotional logic. As Machado recounts, she fell in love with a woman who seemed wonderful--they had sex, went on road trips, met parents--but who eventually became oppressively terrifying. In other sections, the author recounts an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and illuminates the imagery of abuse in two films by George Cukor. Machado uses slippery changes in point of view and a knack for translating emotion into concrete sensation to slide readers into her space, where they experience the fear and confusion of abuse from the inside. She applies the astonishing force of her imagination and narrative skill to her own life, framing chapters with storytelling motifs (unreliable narrator, star-crossed lovers, choose-your-own-adventure) and playful footnotes. Occasionally, the various parts muddle each other's trajectories, but the heart of this history is clear, deeply felt, and powerful. A fiercely honest, imaginatively written, and necessary memoir from one of our great young writers.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 26, 2019
    In this haunting memoir, National Book Award–finalist Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) discusses the mental and physical abuse she was subjected to by her girlfriend. The book is divided into short, piercing chapters, in which Machado refers to the victimized version of herself as “you.” (“I thought you died, but writing this, I’m not sure you did.”) Machado discusses meeting the girlfriend (her first) in Iowa City, where Machado was getting her MFA. She masterfully, slowly introduces unease and dread as the relationship unfolds. The girlfriend turns threatening if Machado doesn’t immediately return her calls, starts pointless fights, and inflicts physical discomfort on Machado (squeezing her arm for no reason, for instance). The hostile environment turns utterly oppressive, yet Machado stays, becoming further disoriented by someone who inflicts harm one minute and declares her love the next. Machado interestingly weaves in cultural references (to movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1984’s Carmen) as she considers portrayals of abuse. She points out that queer women endure abuse in their relationships just as heterosexual women do, and queer abusers shouldn’t be protected: “We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented.” The author eventually leaves her toxic relationship behind, but scars remain. Machado has written an affecting, chilling memoir about domestic abuse.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 15, 2019
    In this memoir, Machado (Her Body and Other Parties, 2017) chronicles her abusive relationship with a former partner, a slim blonde woman who is referred throughout as "the woman from the Dream House." The Dream House in question is the Bloomington, Indiana home that Machado periodically spent time in during their long-distance relationship. She presents the story in fragments: "Dream House as Noir," "Dream House as Choose Your Own Adventure," "Dream House as Stoner Comedy," "Dream House as Entomology." This formal device presents the faceted experience of her past, examining it not only as personal trauma but also through wider contexts, especially the ways in which abuse in lesbian relationships is often complicated by gendered stereotypes, the pressure to avoid presenting negative images of lesbian relationships to straight people, and even the imagined utopia of same-sex partnerships being free from the problems of their hetero counterparts. The writing exhibits all of the formal precision of her fiction, and the book draws the reader deep into the varied rooms of the haunted house of the past. Highly recommended to fans of Machado's fiction and to anyone interested in LGBTQ memoir, domestic abuse, or chilling and precise examinations of human relationships at their worst.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2019

    Experimenting with narrative form, Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) offers an emotional tour of the "Dream House," examining the history of an abusive queer relationship from multiple perspectives. In fragmented vignettes and short essays, Machado considers the "Dream House" as romance novel, noir, d�j� vu, cautionary tale, and more (even delving into "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories) to engage with the literature on queer domestic abuse, positioning her account within the framework of lesbian experience. Machado's frequent use of second-person narration is especially harrowing, placing readers inside the Dream House as she recounts the events surrounding her relationship. In this open examination of abuse--how it starts, how it hides, how it tears at the victim's sense of self--Machado reimagines and plays with the memoir form, bridging the gap between reader and author in a way that is original and haunting. VERDICT A thought-provoking account for anyone interested in the experience of abuse survivors and lesbian narratives; trigger warning for descriptions of physical and emotional abuse. [See Prepub Alert, 4/1/19.]--Gricel Dominguez, Florida International Univ. Lib., Miami

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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A Memoir
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