Carmen Maria Machado. Photography: Miranda Barnes

Author Carmen Maria Machado Submits Her Story for the Record

The National Book Award finalist’s upcoming memoir—about emotional and psychological abuse in a lesbian relationship—goes beyond the universal

Cassie da Costa
Published in
14 min readNov 4, 2019


CCarmen Maria Machado told me she writes for herself. Still, within any self, there are many others. Her second book, In the Dream House, coming out on November 5, is a memoir written in fragments. A fair comparison in form would be Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely, though written by a young master of prose, In the Dream House is poetic, associative, and elliptical. An epigraph by artist Louise Bourgeois reads, “You pile up associations the way you pile up bricks. Memory itself is a form of architecture.” The other epigraph by writer Zora Neale Hurston (the namesake of this publication) goes, “If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it.” And the dedication: “If you need this book, it is for you.”

MMachado, though early in her career as a published author, has already gathered legions. In a review of Her Body and Other Parties, Machado’s 2018 debut collection of queer horror fairy tales, New York Times book critic Parul Sehgal wrote, “Not since Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, in 2006, has a debut collection of short stories from a relatively unknown author garnered such attention, or deserved it more.” In a capsule review for Bookforum, critic Andrea Long Chu gushed, “Machado’s prose is effortless, magnetic, very funny when she wants it to be. Like the confident, baseball-capped butch from ‘Real Women Have Bodies,’ it drives you to a run-down motel and feeds you greasy Chinese after.” Her Body was a National Book Award finalist, a finalist for the Calvino Prize, and is being developed into a series for FX. Her upcoming project, The Low, Low Woods, is a limited-run comic series with DC Comics that will likely introduce her more directly to a genre audience.

In the Dream House gathers its legions, too. In the section “Dream House as Prologue,” Machado references the academic Saidiya Hartman’s essay “Venus in Two Acts,” which examines the “dearth of contemporaneous African accounts of slavery” and the overall impossibility of the broken or absent archive. In later sections of…