House of Mirrors

Carmen Maria Machado on her meta-memoir of a harrowing relationship


Two years ago, Carmen Maria Machado pushed the weird and gothic into the mainstream with her debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and made her a Guggenheim Fellow. Now she’s back with In the Dream House, a memoir of a harrowing relationship told in a splintered, fractured style. The list of chapters reads like an introduction to literary tropes 101: dream house as an exercise in point of view, as a memory palace, as a stranger comes to town, as a plot twist. Ultimately it is, as one title puts it, an exercise in style, but one in which Machado considers all the territory surrounding the dream house: stereotypes about lesbian relationships as safe or as hysterical, her religious adolescence, the insufficiency of the law, and the absence in the archives of stories that don’t fit traditional demographics of abuse.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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