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In the Dream House

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for In the Dream House

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    With exacting, exquisite prose, Carmen Maria Machado writes about the complexities of abuse in queer relationships in her absolutely remarkable memoir In The Dream House. She deftly chronicles the wildness of succumbing to desire, the entrancing tenderness of loving and being loved, the fragility of hope, and the unspeakable horror when the woman you love is a monster beneath and on the surface of her skin. What makes this book truly exceptional is how Machado creates an archive where, With exacting, exquisite prose, Carmen Maria Machado writes about the complexities of abuse in queer relationships in her absolutely remarkable memoir In The Dream House. She deftly chronicles the wildness of succumbing to desire, the entrancing tenderness of loving and being loved, the fragility of hope, and the unspeakable horror when the woman you love is a monster beneath and on the surface of her skin. What makes this book truly exceptional is how Machado creates an archive where, shamefully, there is none. She demands that we face the truths we are all too often reluctant to confront about the kinds of suffering we are willing to tolerate and the suffering we willfully ignore. Machado has already dazzled us with her brilliant fiction writing and she exceeds all expectations as she breaks new ground in what memoir can do. Also, fuck that trash ass bitch. She ain't shit. At all.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    YES YES YES!!! A 1000x better than expected, and I expected nothing short of holy scripture. Months earlier I stumbled upon the description and knew this book would be monumental. As early reviews crept in, my anticipation grew. I had my Kindle fully charged and stayed up until midnight so I could start reading the second it released. By 2am I was 30% done. A few marathon readings later, I reached the last page with breathless finality. The result? Monumental doesn't even begin to cover it. The YES YES YES!!! A 1000x better than expected, and I expected nothing short of holy scripture. Months earlier I stumbled upon the description and knew this book would be monumental. As early reviews crept in, my anticipation grew. I had my Kindle fully charged and stayed up until midnight so I could start reading the second it released. By 2am I was 30% done. A few marathon readings later, I reached the last page with breathless finality. The result? Monumental doesn't even begin to cover it. The funny thing, it's not monumental because of what happens. Bad relationships happen all the time. Abusive relationships, mental and/or physical, happen all the time. It's talked about less in queer relationships, that's true, and Machado does a great job pointing that out, but I doubt anybody will be dumbfounded by what they read. They will be surprised, however, that there's someone brave enough to talk about it, and by how personal she's willing to get. They will be surprised by how she structures it. The structure really is what makes this a masterpiece. It's not just the experience, it's the delivery. The darkest memories are brilliantly conveyed in second person and through varying lens. Most of them literary devices. Machado recounts her life through the eyes of Chekhov's Gun, Choose Your Own Adventure, Haunted House, Erotica, Plot Twist, and dozens more. Each section is short and precise. Never a wasted word. For those uncomfortable reading about abuse, she doesn't take it too far either. This isn't battered woman porn. She doesn't go on and on. We get snippets, glimpses of a life that we can easily piece together, and, more importantly, relate to. What she accomplishes for the queer community specifically, I think, is breaking the ice. After hard-fought battles for marriage equality, there's this unspoken rule that gay relationships must work. If they don't, people will point and say I told you so. By extension, rights may be taken away. Obviously that's not the only factor that kept Machado in her relationship. It may not even be in the Top 10, but it is a shadow that hovers over the scene. She points to lesbian stereotypes as well. Society expects men to be abusive, but two women? Their relationship should be a utopia, right? These stereotypes, this ice, is something she clearly wants to break apart. And she succeeds tremendously. Of course you don't have to be queer to recognize this is a master work of memoir and creative non-fiction. It is a testament that all experiences, however ordinary or unique, should be shared. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the book is the relentless honesty. She veils it slightly by the structure and 2nd person, but in a way this makes the experience more real. More true. And the accomplishment, I think, is for any one person to read this and be able to know that, for sure, they are not alone.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    In the Dream House is a most unmemoir-like memoir. This account of Carmen Maria Machado’s years in an abusive same-sex relationship plays with form, blending elements of literary criticism, pop culture essays, folk tales and the shadowy worlds of her short fiction. To tell this real-life story, Machado cleaves herself in two: the first-person, present-day “I” — settled, successful, safe — addresses the second-person, past “you”. This textual interplay between two Carmens affords more closeness In the Dream House is a most unmemoir-like memoir. This account of Carmen Maria Machado’s years in an abusive same-sex relationship plays with form, blending elements of literary criticism, pop culture essays, folk tales and the shadowy worlds of her short fiction. To tell this real-life story, Machado cleaves herself in two: the first-person, present-day “I” — settled, successful, safe — addresses the second-person, past “you”. This textual interplay between two Carmens affords more closeness than addressing an imagined reader would. “You cried in front of many people. You missed readings, parties, the supermoon. You tried to tell your story to people who didn’t know how to listen. You made a fool of yourself, in more ways than one. I thought you died, but writing this, I’m not sure you did.” Machado has then further cut and polished her pain into dozens of tiny gleaming facets, variations in style that are employed as lenses, each one offering a new revelation. Among these, for example, are Dream House as lipogram; as prisoner’s dilemma; as Schrödinger’s Cat; as Choose Your Own Adventure®; as comedy of errors. This all could have fallen into a gimmicky heap, but the blend of formal inventiveness and raw vulnerability is executed beautifully. In the Dream House is a memoir from someone who not only has a painful experience to relate and work through, but who can also REALLY write AND think AND synthesise, who in her own words can braid the clays of memory and essay and fact and perception together, smash them into a ball, roll them flat. Overall it is unconventional (and as such won’t be to everyone’s taste), but not in a way that’s distancing or abstract. A genuinely memorable and highly impressive work. 5 stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Contemplative and inventive, In the Dream House dispels the silence surrounding abusive queer relationships. In her debut memoir Machado recounts the violence she endured for years at the hands of her first girlfriend, a rail-thin, androgynous unnamed white woman who routinely invalidated and gaslighted her. Written in arresting prose the work unfolds in a series of terse, terrifying sections, each of which centers on a single trope, from the conceptual (‘Epiphany,’ ‘Memory,’ ‘Void’) to the Contemplative and inventive, In the Dream House dispels the silence surrounding abusive queer relationships. In her debut memoir Machado recounts the violence she endured for years at the hands of her first girlfriend, a rail-thin, androgynous unnamed white woman who routinely invalidated and gaslighted her. Written in arresting prose the work unfolds in a series of terse, terrifying sections, each of which centers on a single trope, from the conceptual (‘Epiphany,’ ‘Memory,’ ‘Void’) to the generic (‘Murder Mystery,’ ‘Noir,’ ‘Bildungsroman’). As she moves back and forth in time, viewing the bond from several angles, Machado embeds cultural criticism and theory into her story, considering the ways in which abuse toward and among women, specifically lesbians, is (and is not) represented. With great subtlety the writer captures the power dynamics at the heart of her relationship, and her commentary on American culture is sharp.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    In this intimate, formally experimental memoir, Machado recalls how she survived an abusive relationship, but gives her own experiences a wider context: As she illustrates by giving examples from real life, art and scientific texts, violence in lesbian relationships has rarely been acknowledged and discussed, thus rendering the victims almost invisible and making them even more vulnerable. With "In the Dream House", Machado wants to add to the archive of stories about the human experience, In this intimate, formally experimental memoir, Machado recalls how she survived an abusive relationship, but gives her own experiences a wider context: As she illustrates by giving examples from real life, art and scientific texts, violence in lesbian relationships has rarely been acknowledged and discussed, thus rendering the victims almost invisible and making them even more vulnerable. With "In the Dream House", Machado wants to add to the archive of stories about the human experience, turning the phenomenon of abuse between queer women into a topic to be considered, to be pondered. To talk about queer people as abusers is in fact, Machado states, an act of liberation: "We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented as much as our heroism, because when we refuse wrongdoing as a possibility for a group of people, we refuse their humanity." Machado met her unnamed ex-girlfriend when she was studying for an MFA in Iowa, and with time, "the woman in the dream house" became more and more controlling, passive-aggressive and also physically violent, gaslighting Machado, insulting and diminishing her and playing with her insecurities, until Machado finally found the strength to exit the relationship that had become a prison. The mechanisms Machado depicts will probably be recognizable for many people, but I have to admit that before the author pointed it out to me, I hadn't actively thought about the fact that there are hardly any texts that talk about abuse in a queer context, which means that queer people in these situations do not find themselves represented in (real and fictional) stories and are thus deprived of a language to express what they are experiencing. And although Machado explicitly states that it is her goal to change that, the situations and effects she depicts are in many respects universal. Machado is just a fantastic psychological writer with keen sensibilities, and she finds highly evocative words and images to convey her own past. This main narrative thread is not only split in multiple short chapters, it is also interspersed with flashbacks, scientific research on the topic as well as examples from literature, music, films and real life that support Machado's argument that violence in lesbian relationship has long been a taboo. These paragraphs also paint a wider picture of American society as a whole, about dynamics that aim to "other" minorities and to control female sexuality. This multi-layered approach is also mirrored in the metaphor of the "dream house", which not only refers to the actual house in Bloomington the ex-girlfriend used to live in, but also to "a house that was not a house and a dream that was no dream at all", a (self-)deception with multiple different rooms and scary surroundings (think Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, where the house is also much more than an actual building). To convey her alienation, Machado refers to her abused self of the past as "you", which is a particularly tricky narrative choice, and I've rarely seen an author pull this perspective off so effortlessly and effectfully. All in all, I liked this much better than Her Body and Other Parties (which I already found rather impressive), and once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. Some parts were slightly too fragmented for my taste, but this memoir is a real achievement and deserves all the praise it currently gets.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Collin

    Machado writes in the afterword for this novel, "In The Dream House is by no means meant to be a comprehensive account of contemporary research about same-sex domestic abuse or its history”. And yet that is in a way what she has created.. More powerful because of the memoir format in which it is presented. There are parts of this memoir where you can viscerally feel the fear that Machado feels. The slow grinding down of her spirit from the constant verbal, psychological, and physical violence that Machado writes in the afterword for this novel, "In The Dream House is by no means meant to be a comprehensive account of contemporary research about same-sex domestic abuse or its history”. And yet that is in a way what she has created.. More powerful because of the memoir format in which it is presented. There are parts of this memoir where you can viscerally feel the fear that Machado feels. The slow grinding down of her spirit from the constant verbal, psychological, and physical violence that she experiences. I was an instant fan of Machado’s writing after reading her debut, a collection of short stories, "Her Body and Other Parties”. I am happy to write that her beautiful style of writing remains. As well as a powerful piece of literature to bring reader’s attention to queer domestic abuse, it is a joy to read. In no way does this feel like a flat, black and white memoir. Machado lets the metaphors fly. “It is the early months of 2011; marriage equality is smouldering, catching fire in some states, doused with water in others.” “She has a raspy voice that sounds like a wheelbarrow being dragged over stones.” “but she touches your arm and looks directly at you and you feel like a child buying something with her own money for the first time.” “She leans away and looks at you with the kind of slow, reverent consideration you’d give to a painting. She strokes the soft inside of your wrist. You feel your heart beating somewhere far away, as if it’s behind glass.” Beautiful vivid writing that continues through the whole memoir. We find that at thirteen, Machado was a devout Christian. In her own words, “obsessed with sexual purity”, She not only went to church, but enjoyed it, and firmly believed that Jesus was her saviour. Then when she was sixteen along came a new associate pastor, Joel Jones. Joel Jones slowly but surely built up a strong bond between himself and Machado. Increasingly they would meet at venues, like diners at two in the morning, just the two of them. Machado, young and innocent fails to see that Jones has broken down the walls that should stand firm and solid between them. The walls of minister/congruent, adult/teenager, teacher/student. When Machado leaves for college, we find out that Jones has been fired as pastor for having an affair with a parishioner. He finally answers Machado’s phone calls to tell her he is alright, and Machado never hears from him again. Did Jones ever stop for a minute to realise the damage he had done to Machado? The mental torture that he put her through. Did he ever consider the destructive impact his actions would have on her life? Did they have any? At college she meets and falls in love with another female student. Things could not be any better until one day when she leaves the class to go to the bathroom, she finds a girl weeping and she finds out that the girl has been raped. Machado stays with the girl for two hours talking and comforting her. When Machado and her girlfriend drop the stranger home, things start to go sideways. Her girlfriend erupts violently screaming at her to never do that again and that she did not know where she was. She pounds the dashboard with her fists to emphasise the point. Machado is at first more bewildered than afraid. Where has this violence come from? As time goes on, it only gets worse. The girlfriend is obsessed. After they have met their respective parents. Things slowly get worse. One day the girlfriend pinches her arm and maintains the pinch getting stronger and more painful. The girlfriend has taken the first step crossing the line from emotional abuse to physical abuse. However, it is the psychological abuse that is the most destructive. For me this almost feels like an avant-garde form of memoir with Machado approaching each chapter from a wide variety of different perspectives. Exploring events from her past in the form of films, novels, science fiction tv series. At times it feels bizarre, but it works amazingly well. With each chapter you feel like Machado has hammered another point home about the lack of exposure, the scarcity of archival records of queer domestic abuse. With each chapter she seems to be emphasizing that this abuse is happening even if is not recorded, and that why should there be any difference from heterosexual abuse or any form of abuse anyway. I loved this book, I think that it is brilliantly written, and that Machado is an extremely intelligent and gifted writer, delivering a powerful and important message. 4 Stars! Thanks to Serpent's Tail for providing the ARC.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    In the Dream House is an unusual memoir; a tale of domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, it's loaded with references to myth, folktales, and literary genres. This sounds like heavy going, but the short chapters and simple but eloquent writing style instead make the book compelling, a page-turner. I don't think I've quite plumbed the depths of what this book is doing, but as Machado points out, stories of domestic abuse in female–female couples are underrepresented in the literature and In the Dream House is an unusual memoir; a tale of domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, it's loaded with references to myth, folktales, and literary genres. This sounds like heavy going, but the short chapters and simple but eloquent writing style instead make the book compelling, a page-turner. I don't think I've quite plumbed the depths of what this book is doing, but as Machado points out, stories of domestic abuse in female–female couples are underrepresented in the literature and often viewed with skepticism. The scarcity of these narratives makes In the Dream House a unique work, but as Machado herself shows, nearly every element of this story can be mapped back to another story, be it one of ancient myth or of popular children's lit. Not every chapter worked for me, but it all added up to a riveting and satisfying exploration of how we, as individuals or groups, can claim our differences while still insisting on our common humanity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    3 stars While I definitely admire Carmen Maria Machado for having not only the strength to tackle such a difficult subject matter but to do so by sharing her own personal experience with her readers, and part of me also can't help but to recognise that In the Dream House: A Memoir is one of the most innovative memoir I have ever read, I would be lying if I said (or wrote) that it was flawlessly executed. I'm definitely glad to see that many other reviewers are praising it and or have clearly ★★★✰✰ 3 stars While I definitely admire Carmen Maria Machado for having not only the strength to tackle such a difficult subject matter but to do so by sharing her own personal experience with her readers, and part of me also can't help but to recognise that In the Dream House: A Memoir is one of the most innovative memoir I have ever read, I would be lying if I said (or wrote) that it was flawlessly executed. I'm definitely glad to see that many other reviewers are praising it and or have clearly found it to be an emotional and striking read...nevertheless I will try to momentarily resist peer pressure and express my honest opinion instead, which is that In the Dream House: A Memoir struck me as a rather disjointed amalgamation. On the one hand we have pages and pages chock-full of quotations from secondary sources discussing the way in which American society tends to dismiss or not acknowledge that sexual, emotional, and physical abuse within the queer community is possible. These sections seemed to adopt an essayist's language. However, while these sections used certain academic terms (possibly not accessible to a wide readership) and were structured like essays of sorts they didn't really develop Machado's initial argument (that abusive queer or LGBTQ relationships are often called in to question since many consider the idea of a woman abusing another woman unbelievable). I didn't agree with some of her readings of certain queer films nor did I find her own brand of queer criticism all that compelling. The other segments in this memoir draw from Machado's personal history with an abusive relationship. Her partner (a woman) emotionally and psychologically abused her throughout the entirety of their relationship. Machado deviates from the usual recognisably 'memoir' way of presenting one's own story offering us instead with fragments of her time in this abusive relationship. She addresses this past 'self' in the secondary person, so there are a lot of 'you' this and 'you' that, and her abuser as 'the woman in the Dream House'. Here her language becomes even more flowery and the imagery and metaphors were rather abstract. These sections seemed snapshots more than anything else. The 'poetic' style seemed to take on more importance than Machado's own story. I also wasn't all that keen on the way she traces past conversations and incidents back to folklore. She seems a bit too ready to connect every single moment of this awful relationship back to Jungian archetypes. It was weird and it made some aspects of memoir seem a bit artificial. Also while I get that sometimes including graphic or deeply personal moments is horrifyingly necessary when discussing abuse (such as Isabelle Aubry does in her memoir where she talks in detail about the horrific sexual abuse her father inflicted upon her) here we had these random sex scenes which seemed to be included merely to be subversive. Overall I just couldn't look past my dislike for Machado writing style. Still, I'm definitely in the minority on this one so I recommend you check this one out and see for yourself whether you are interested in reading this. Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ace

    Dream House as Sodom Like Lot’s wife, you looked back, and like Lot’s wife, you were turned into a pillar of salt, but unlike Lot’s wife, God gave you a second chance and turned you human again, but then you looked back again and became salt and then God took pity and gave you a third, and over and again you lurched through your many reprieves and mistakes; one moment motionless and the next gangly, your soft limbs wheeling and your body staggering into the dirt, and then stiff as a tree trunk Dream House as Sodom Like Lot’s wife, you looked back, and like Lot’s wife, you were turned into a pillar of salt, but unlike Lot’s wife, God gave you a second chance and turned you human again, but then you looked back again and became salt and then God took pity and gave you a third, and over and again you lurched through your many reprieves and mistakes; one moment motionless and the next gangly, your soft limbs wheeling and your body staggering into the dirt, and then stiff as a tree trunk again with an aura of dust, then windmilling down the road as fire rains down behind you; and there has never been a woman as cartoonish as you—animal to mineral and back again. With a brave and daring honesty, Machado lays out her relationship in an open book. Using short vignettes or sequences, piece by piece, she bares her soul. 5 stars. "I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback." With thanks to Serpents Tail and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. #IntheDreamHouse #NetGalley

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    TW for domestic violence, emotional manipulation, physical threats, inability to escape. Carmen Maria Machado writes in a creative way about her own experience in an abusive relationship, and also within the broader context of lesbian and/or queer domestic abuse. All the pieces of her life, experiences, and relationships create this Dream House that also in some ways creates a structure that surrounds the experience. Some of the sections are just one page, exploring a fragment of an idea that TW for domestic violence, emotional manipulation, physical threats, inability to escape. Carmen Maria Machado writes in a creative way about her own experience in an abusive relationship, and also within the broader context of lesbian and/or queer domestic abuse. All the pieces of her life, experiences, and relationships create this Dream House that also in some ways creates a structure that surrounds the experience. Some of the sections are just one page, exploring a fragment of an idea that connects; she eventually explains why the book is written this way. Many of the sections connect to the Motif-Index of Folk Literature put out by Indiana University, which was uncanny to me because in my year in their Folklore PhD program, this is something we used often and comes from their scholarship. Her girlfriend from this violent time also lived in Bloomington and was doing a writing program there. If you know Machado's previous works, which were dark fairy tales and dark folktale retellings, it is an unnerving connection to the life experience she was having while she wrote those stories, something she connects inside this memoir in the struggle to understand how in some ways this violent relationship fueled her writing but of course she couldn't say so at the time. I couldn't read this all at once. It creates a feeling of claustrophobia. Her use of the occasional second person pulls the reader into the lived experience and I actually felt a little panicky at times (particularly in the Choose Your Own Adventure section.) I'm glad she was able to write about it, it's important for people in the lgbtq+ community to have resources if they encounter abusive relationships, and it points to the importance of understanding domestic violence beyond visible bruising and the old "battered woman" stereotypes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Dacus

    There is no readying yourself for this one. Carmen is a modern legend, case closed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I finished In the Dream House a few weeks ago but I haven't found myself able to rise to the challenge of reviewing this book. It's one of the best things I've read all year; one of the best memoirs I've read ever. My instinct is to say that this book won't be for everyone due to its highly inventive structure, but where I find that literary invention tends to be alienating, Carmen Maria Machado's memoir is so fiercely personal that I doubt anyone could accuse it of being emotionallyremoved. In I finished In the Dream House a few weeks ago but I haven't found myself able to rise to the challenge of reviewing this book.  It's one of the best things I've read all year; one of the best memoirs I've read ever.  My instinct is to say that this book won't be for everyone due to its highly inventive structure, but where I find that literary invention tends to be alienating, Carmen Maria Machado's memoir is so fiercely personal that I doubt anyone could accuse it of being emotionally removed. In the Dream House tells the story of an abusive relationship that Machado was in with another woman in her 20s; she draws the reader into the alarming reality that she lived for years, with just enough of the abuse detailed that it avoids gratuity while still becoming a sickening, terrifying read, oddly reminiscent of an old-fashioned horror film.  This book is written in first and second person, with present-day Carmen speaking to past-Carmen, allowing her to display a vulnerability to the reader that can be hard to achieve in even the most open of memoirs.  Machado is very conscious of the fact that she's written a singular, pioneering text; there's commentary woven throughout the narrative about how woefully under-researched the subject of abuse in queer female relationships is.  In contrast with the cultural misconception that women cannot abuse each other, she integrates references to myth, literature, history, and scholarship into her own story, heightening the timelessness, the commonality of her own horrifying experiences.  This is a chilling, clear-eyed, conceptually brilliant text that I sincerely hope reaches the readers who need it the most. Highly recommended. Thank you to Graywolf for the comp copy; this did not impact my rating in any way.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Olivia (Stories For Coffee)

    In the Dream House is a haunting, lyrical memoir chronicling the author’s relationship with an abusive partner. She discusses the difficulties of being in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship and how the fact that you have no visible wounds to show makes oneself and the public doubt if there was any abuse at all while also discussing how different it is to be in a queer abusive relationship. The dynamics are vastly different, the stakes are higher because members of the queer In the Dream House is a haunting, lyrical memoir chronicling the author’s relationship with an abusive partner. She discusses the difficulties of being in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship and how the fact that you have no visible wounds to show makes oneself and the public doubt if there was any abuse at all while also discussing how different it is to be in a queer abusive relationship. The dynamics are vastly different, the stakes are higher because members of the queer community have somewhat of a reputation to uphold to the general public about their relationships, and it’s vastly explored in this book. This nonfiction, while written in such a captivating way, will make you uncomfortable and fill you with dread, but it is so necessary and important for any time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Read By RodKelly

    In The Dream House is a grief-spangled reconstruction of love dissembled and fractured by abuse and betrayal, the titular Dream House being an actual house, but in the scope of the memoir, functioning as archival vessel for retrieving and preserving the memory of experience, acting as a sieve for the evidence of trauma, the traces of pain that linger in the body, that hiss around in the atmosphere long after danger has passed. Fives stars earned for - being a secondary source-informed text in In The Dream House is a grief-spangled reconstruction of love dissembled and fractured by abuse and betrayal, the titular Dream House being an actual house, but in the scope of the memoir, functioning as archival vessel for retrieving and preserving the memory of experience, acting as a sieve for the evidence of trauma, the traces of pain that linger in the body, that hiss around in the atmosphere long after danger has passed. Fives stars earned for - ⭐️ being a secondary source-informed text in which the secondary sources are also stylistic and structural ornaments. ⭐️ the incredible narrative flexibility--this is truly a virtuosic performance. ⭐️ the acknowledgement of queer scholarship related to, but also divergent from the main focus of the memoir; by broadening the scope, Machado's gains contextual acuity. ⭐️ breaking down stereotypes about queer relationships, especially between two women. ⭐️the vulnerability! the tenderness!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    This is a quick read but is alive with intelligence, insight and empathy, detailing how a young woman finds herself, unexpectedly, in an abusive relationship. Machado is honest about her emotions: her vulnerability and desire for love, her retreat in the face of the gradual uncovering of the inner nature of her lover, her pretence and self-deception, her attempts to encourage her lover to get professional help, her final escape. As well as detailing an intensely personal story, this is also a This is a quick read but is alive with intelligence, insight and empathy, detailing how a young woman finds herself, unexpectedly, in an abusive relationship. Machado is honest about her emotions: her vulnerability and desire for love, her retreat in the face of the gradual uncovering of the inner nature of her lover, her pretence and self-deception, her attempts to encourage her lover to get professional help, her final escape. As well as detailing an intensely personal story, this is also a book which is in self-conscious dialogue with other cultural narratives. The overwhelming story, as Machado points out throughout, is about the patriarchal male oppression of women as seen through everything from myths and fairytales through to contemporary films. But increasingly we are aware that men can be victims, and women can be abusers, and that these narratives, too, need to become mainstream. Machado's particular interest is in queer abuse - a story that is both horrifyingly familiar even while it has some differences. The abuse suffered is primarily not physical but emotional and psychological. So a brave unveiling of emotional turmoil, written in precise and emotive prose. I can't think of anyone that I wouldn't recommend this book to. Many thanks to Serpent's Tail for an ARC via NetGalley.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jerrie (redwritinghood)

    This memoir about emotional and psychological domestic abuse was written in such a unique and compelling way. The author explores the myths and the cultural beliefs that abuse doesn’t happen in lesbian relationships. The memoir is told through multiple vignettes centered around the time her girlfriend lived in a particular house while enrolled in an MFA program. The unique structure bolstered the powerful and impactful writing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lotte

    4.5/5. One of those books I was certain I was going to love — and I did. In this gorgeously written memoir, Carmen Maria Machado reckons with an abusive past relationship and lays bare the widespread societal ignorance towards the issue of abuse in queer relationships. What impressed me immensely was Machado's ability to intimately recall the emotional distress of her experiences while also inhabiting a more distanced, nuanced perspective towards this abuse. She views it from different angles, 4.5/5. One of those books I was certain I was going to love — and I did. In this gorgeously written memoir, Carmen Maria Machado reckons with an abusive past relationship and lays bare the widespread societal ignorance towards the issue of abuse in queer relationships. What impressed me immensely was Machado's ability to intimately recall the emotional distress of her experiences while also inhabiting a more distanced, nuanced perspective towards this abuse. She views it from different angles, tries to make sense of it by examining different literary and cultural representations of abuse, all while twisting and bending literary forms and genres (Dream House as American Gothic/Dream House as Spy Thriller/Dream House as Murder Mystery) in her recollections of her time with her abusive partner, her time in the Dream House. If that sounds very fragmented and literary, it's because it is. But — with the exception of a few chapters that didn't quite hit the mark in my opinion — it works exceptionally well.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    Review in note format : * An excellent personal account and scholarly exploration of abuse in same-sex relationships. * I admired this tremendously, a particularly feat, as I loath memoirs generally. * The motif index of folk literature footnotes were sometimes amusing - impregnation by leaf of lettuce ? but oftentimes they added nothing. * Ahhhh, enough already with these chapter headings * I wish "the villain" was more fleshed out or explicable in some way and yet maybe that was the point * I will Review in note format : * An excellent personal account and scholarly exploration of abuse in same-sex relationships. * I admired this tremendously, a particularly feat, as I loath memoirs generally. * The motif index of folk literature footnotes were sometimes amusing - impregnation by leaf of lettuce ? but oftentimes they added nothing. * Ahhhh, enough already with these chapter headings * I wish "the villain" was more fleshed out or explicable in some way and yet maybe that was the point * I will read anything Machado decides to write next but I do hope it is a novel.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    This is a memoir that plays with structure, that recognizes implicitly that this is a book people will sit down and read, and that understands the world and the record it is coming into. It is a world where we still don't really recognize that domestic abuse takes place in queer relationships, we don't recognize abuse as anything except physical harm from a man acting on a woman. Machado knows she is facing an uphill climb, especially since abuse memoirs have an inherent problem of explaining to This is a memoir that plays with structure, that recognizes implicitly that this is a book people will sit down and read, and that understands the world and the record it is coming into. It is a world where we still don't really recognize that domestic abuse takes place in queer relationships, we don't recognize abuse as anything except physical harm from a man acting on a woman. Machado knows she is facing an uphill climb, especially since abuse memoirs have an inherent problem of explaining to readers who haven't been in the cycle of abuse why you didn't leave. It's a daunting task, but Machado faces it by going outside of the normal memoir framework. She acknowledges that writing about queer abuse is almost nonexistent. She sets out her research on queer abuse and fits her own relationship within that framework. She puts the reader in her own shoes, writing in 2nd person so "you" follow along in her place. She breaks it down into small bits, relating her experience through a different lens every few pages. She presents the entire story within the tropes of fairy tales and folklore, binding a rarely told story to many familiar ones. It is not a traditional memoir and reading it doesn't give you a traditional narrative experience, but it is affecting and powerful. Sometimes Machado's narrative choices frustrated me, she would end a section right at a moment of high conflict when I just wanted to know, "But then what? What did you say? How did she respond? How did this actually play out?" So there are frustrations that go with avoiding a traditional narrative, but eventually I had those gaps filled in. Viewing the book as a whole you see everything you need to see. It is brutal and sad and Machado does her best to show you why she was vulnerable and why she acted the way she did. The section that follows a Choose Your Own Adventure style of storytelling is unexpectedly affecting, maybe the most impactful part of the book, making the traps clear, anticipating the reader's responses. Machado is often at her best when she dives into these unusual structures. Her willingness to pull back and place her story in a different context may give you a bit of reading whiplash, but at the end you can pile it all up to see the way it makes a whole work. Some readers may struggle with a book that only really works when all the pieces are in place, but generally Machado is friendly and understanding, speaking to you in a way to keep you engaged. But it does require you to really consider all of it over again when it's concluded instead of taking it piece by piece.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Etter

    An innovative blend of memoir, research, and cultural commentary that masterfully grapples with domestic violence in queer relationships. I couldn't put it down. Split up into powerful, dense vignettes, In The Dream House just made me cancel all of my plans so I could finish it immediately. So excited to see this one enter the world- one of the best of the year, and one you will not forget. For fans of Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, I think these two books sit really well An innovative blend of memoir, research, and cultural commentary that masterfully grapples with domestic violence in queer relationships. I couldn't put it down. Split up into powerful, dense vignettes, In The Dream House just made me cancel all of my plans so I could finish it immediately. So excited to see this one enter the world- one of the best of the year, and one you will not forget. For fans of Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, I think these two books sit really well together as standouts for 2019 that grapple with queerness, identity, violence, and language in lush, compelling ways.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    “You were not always just a You. I was whole—a symbiotic relationship between my best and worst parts—and then, in one sense of the definition, I was cleaved: a neat lop that took first person—that assured, confident woman, the girl detective, the adventurer—away from second, who was always anxious and vibrating like a too-small breed of dog.” Better than I hoped it would be and perhaps my favourite of everything I’ve read so far this year.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    Carmen Maria Machado's “In the Dream House” is a highly inventive memoir which primarily focuses on a past abusive relationship and the effects of it. Part of what drew me to reading this book was a curiosity to see how she'd meld her fantastical style of writing - which she displayed in her excellent short story collection “Her Body and Other Parties” - with her own autobiographical experience. In this book there are many straightforward recollections of her past particularly concerning an Carmen Maria Machado's “In the Dream House” is a highly inventive memoir which primarily focuses on a past abusive relationship and the effects of it. Part of what drew me to reading this book was a curiosity to see how she'd meld her fantastical style of writing - which she displayed in her excellent short story collection “Her Body and Other Parties” - with her own autobiographical experience. In this book there are many straightforward recollections of her past particularly concerning an abusive relationship. But they're all framed within the idea of a dream house that was formed within this intense romance. Like a fairy tale castle this imagined space becomes the central setting of fantasy, pleasure and horror. And through this Machado considers different tropes found in folk literature and how they sync with the trajectory of her own turbulent love affair. Read my full review of In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado on LonesomeReader

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anita Pomerantz

    This book is a literary memoir about domestic abuse in a lesbian relationship. I've read nothing like it and expect I never will again. The structure is unusual. Very short chapters each with a theme that is encapsulated in the title of the chapter i.e. Dream House as Time Travel, Dream House as Confession, Dream House as Romance Novel, etc. Many of the titles allude to a literary style or genre, but plenty refer to other things. Honestly, as I type this, it sounds utterly distracting, and yet in This book is a literary memoir about domestic abuse in a lesbian relationship. I've read nothing like it and expect I never will again. The structure is unusual. Very short chapters each with a theme that is encapsulated in the title of the chapter i.e. Dream House as Time Travel, Dream House as Confession, Dream House as Romance Novel, etc. Many of the titles allude to a literary style or genre, but plenty refer to other things. Honestly, as I type this, it sounds utterly distracting, and yet in Machado's very capable hands, it enhances her story rather than diminishes it. The story of abuse reads as more familiar except for the fact that two women are involved instead of a man and a woman. But Machado never overstates it, letting the reader fill in the gradual and increasing horror of the situation. The Dream House is both a delusion, the illusion of romance and desire, and a reference to a real place where her lover resides. Not all readers will like this, but I think those who like literary fiction and memoirs will be most appreciate (me, me!). Also, the writing reminds me a bit of Roxanne Gay (another writer whose memoir I really appreciated) so if you liked Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, you may also appreciate this book. Bottom line, I couldn't put it down, hence the 5 stars.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    Oh my goodness, this is stunning. A true cri de coeur from a woman of substance with the courage to be honest, the strength to be vulnerable, and the talent to make you care. Machado applies her formidable writing skills, and appropriates myriad literary genres, to address a problem that cannot be adequately explored through more limited means. Different sections are bound to resonate for each reader. For what it's worth, those that spoke most powerfully to me were: Dream House as... an Exercise in Oh my goodness, this is stunning. A true cri de coeur from a woman of substance with the courage to be honest, the strength to be vulnerable, and the talent to make you care. Machado applies her formidable writing skills, and appropriates myriad literary genres, to address a problem that cannot be adequately explored through more limited means. Different sections are bound to resonate for each reader. For what it's worth, those that spoke most powerfully to me were: Dream House as... an Exercise in Point of View Time Travel Luck of the Draw Folktale Taxonomy Queer Villainy Modern Art Sniffs From the Ink of Women Demonic Possession Murder Mystery Mrs. Dalloway Talisman Myth Public Relations Cliche Ending Machado has used Art to transcend Suffering and brought us all a little higher in the process.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    sometimes, when extremely lucky, i read something that is so incandescent it feels as though i am floating through space and being held by an author’s sentences, their use of language, their way of literally breaking the ground beneath all of our feet to unearth something terrifying but something we need to look at. i shivered through every page of this book. as a queer sort-of-mostly-woman, seeing a queer woman explore this terrain of intimate partner violence was... so much. we need this book. sometimes, when extremely lucky, i read something that is so incandescent it feels as though i am floating through space and being held by an author’s sentences, their use of language, their way of literally breaking the ground beneath all of our feet to unearth something terrifying but something we need to look at. i shivered through every page of this book. as a queer sort-of-mostly-woman, seeing a queer woman explore this terrain of intimate partner violence was... so much. we need this book. this is a gripping and deeply unsettling read, but the ending (where to end a memoir!) is gorgeous and soothing. the use of fragments and footnotes are Devastating. she is just such an exceptionally beautiful and SKILLED storyteller and she captured how confusing and scary being in this situation can feel to a T. which as she reiterates, is next to impossible when you’re in the thick of it. so i am so thankful for her to have put it into words. in honour of machado’s incredible use of folk literature motifs - machado’s writing is like peeling an apple with a knife in ribbons. there’s a deeply creepy unravelling like with the woman in the Dream House (and also in her fiction which is still one of my favourite collections ever) and a juxtaposition of the underlying tart, sexy, sweetness and joy in the world alongside and despite and even confusingly but realistically, within the horrors sometimes.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    Soooo, this one I couldn't put down and super easy to read, well kind of (subject matter was a tough one) I'm just...Wow! read this ASAP!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    You cried in front of many people. You missed readings, parties, the supermoon. Reading this, I feel Carmen Maria Machado holding the woman she was, mourning the loss of self, time and potential to the tiny, dark, locked closet of an abusive relationship. With her memoir and meditation on lesbian domestic abuse, In The Dream House, Machado reconstructs the rooms of her experience and memory to create a narrative filled with complexity and nuance. Using vignettes that range from a chronological You cried in front of many people. You missed readings, parties, the supermoon. Reading this, I feel Carmen Maria Machado holding the woman she was, mourning the loss of self, time and potential to the tiny, dark, locked closet of an abusive relationship. With her memoir and meditation on lesbian domestic abuse, In The Dream House, Machado reconstructs the rooms of her experience and memory to create a narrative filled with complexity and nuance. Using vignettes that range from a chronological walk down the hallway of her recent relationship, to academic discourse on domestic violence between queer women, to a tapestry of self and sexuality woven from childhood memories, Machado experiments with form and tilts the function of memoir on its head. Each chapter offers a different narrative trope, a shift of the kaleidoscope through which to view her relationship and her responses to the growing doom she feels, recognizing the abuse even as she still loves the abuser. Machado shatters illusion of a lesbian utopia by acknowledging the irony: admitting that queer relationships can go terribly wrong just like straight partnerships is to face further prejudice. We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented as much as our heroism because when we refuse wrongdoing as a possibility for a group of people, we refuse their humanity. This is an extraordinary read. What might be gimmicky in the hands of a lesser writer becomes gripping, ominous, and urgent with Carmen Maria Machado's searingly self-aware prose. The narrative shimmers between tenderness, detached curiosity, and screaming hurt. It captures the bewilderment of realizing your soul is in the iron grip of a narcissist, and the gasping struggle for breath as you claw your way out of its grasp. The author succeeds with her specificity of examining queer domestic abuse and in showing the universality of any abusive relationship, the arc that begins with hope and desire and the quick, subtle, hopeless descent into control and denial. You swear to yourself that you’re going to tell someone how bad it is, but by the time the ground is coming toward you again you are already polishing your story. When domestic abuse is psychological and emotional, but not physical, there is a sense of disbelief and doubt that the abuse is even happening, that perhaps you've misunderstood or are exaggerating; Machado hauntingly, familiarly, laments the lack of bruises as proof, for how else do you show to the world that you are in need of help, that you won't be asked, “Maybe it was rough, but was it really abusive? What does that mean, anyway?” In The Dream House shows us what it means, how we create different rooms on our souls to house the trauma and the terror, the humanity and passion, how we set aside places for our strong, determined selves that cannot be destroyed until we are ready and able to emerge with our truths intact, even if our hearts are shattered. I read this in one sitting. Extraordinary.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    There is too much Iowa MFA in Machado’s writing, and ultimately the elaborate, intricate, inventive, convoluted prose takes away from her personal story, IMO.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Harrowing, phenomenal, unputdownable memoir. Machado is absolutely brilliant.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado's memoir of her experience in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship with a woman. I was aware of the near-universal acclaim for this book – how could I not be – but had formed the wrong impression of it. I expected it to be much more experimental than it actually is; I was anticipating whole stories written as genre pastiches, and while there are flashes of that, most of this book is a fairly straightforward narrative told in short chapters, In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado's memoir of her experience in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship with a woman. I was aware of the near-universal acclaim for this book – how could I not be – but had formed the wrong impression of it. I expected it to be much more experimental than it actually is; I was anticipating whole stories written as genre pastiches, and while there are flashes of that, most of this book is a fairly straightforward narrative told in short chapters, each using a trope, style or object as a metaphor for the relationship. The results are sometimes powerful (the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' chapter is quietly devastating) but not always fully successful (the folklore-index footnotes became a touch gimmicky after a while). In the Dream House is most successful when Machado examines the silence that surrounds the issue of abuse in lesbian relationships. Why don't these stories get told? Why are victims not heard when they do speak out? In the Dream House tells an important story. It also turns a painful period of the author's life into an almost indecently compelling narrative, one I felt queasily keen to get back to whenever I put it down. I wasn't wowed by this as many others have been, but I admired its creative, taboo-breaking approach to a difficult subject. TinyLetter

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