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In the Dream House: A Memoir

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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 piec 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 piec 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: A Memoir

  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, shamefull 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

    Kat

    exquisite, cannot recommend highly enough.

  3. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    “If you need this book, it is for you”, so opens Machado’s star-bright and exquisitely crafted memoir, “In the Dream House”, the words like a hand on the reader’s back. Very few works of writing are more fraught, more tremulous and dauntless, than a memoir. It’s mental self-flagellation: the prying open of one’s life, the splitting of the past like a cracked egg. To trap yourself in the mirrored halls of your own memory. The equivalent of digging a nail into an open sore. Writers like Machado offe “If you need this book, it is for you”, so opens Machado’s star-bright and exquisitely crafted memoir, “In the Dream House”, the words like a hand on the reader’s back. Very few works of writing are more fraught, more tremulous and dauntless, than a memoir. It’s mental self-flagellation: the prying open of one’s life, the splitting of the past like a cracked egg. To trap yourself in the mirrored halls of your own memory. The equivalent of digging a nail into an open sore. Writers like Machado offer up their ability to communicate the inexpressible through language. But it isn’t an easy feat—“putting language to something for which you have no language.” Machado couldn’t find a language for her wordless agony, and like many other queer people in abusive same-sex relationships, she’s had to gather up the silence like a mantle and carry it along with her, step by step. Hers, like many others, was a story like a cry into empty space, no walls to throw an echo back. That is “the violence of the archive”, Machado says, how it wells up and pulls those stories under, in ways foreseen and unforeseen, as often denied as acknowledged. How its trumpets of silence—when blown—can blast a blanket of quiet loud enough to smother queer relationship trauma. In her memoir, Machado joins her account to the ones before her, long kept under a pall of silence. Into this “archival silence”, Machado screams, and the sound crashes, breaks like a wave and floods the pages with all the force of the ocean. In every sense, this is quite a piece of work. Machado audaciously pushes the boundaries of the memoir form, reshaping the very definition of it to suit the thrumming drum of her remembrance. And once unearthed, there is no containing the memories. The words whip out of Machado like a spirit breaking free of the skin that restrains it, and that restlessness is echoed in the way the chapters are broken apart and re-formed and siphoned into a series of vignettes, translated into narrative traditions (romance novel, stoner comedy, road trip, self-help bestseller) and literary tropes (Unreliable Narrator, Pathetic Fallacy, Choose Your Own Adventure). “I broke the stories down,” Machado writes, “because I was breaking down and didn’t know what else to do.” “In the Dream House” is frequently footnoted too, with Machado accounting fairy tale motifs as they occur as flawlessly as Homer accounted his dactyls, jabbing a dose of eerie fantasy into the memoir—reflecting, perhaps, the war that stirred in Machado between belief and disbelief as her relationship with her abusive ex-girlfriend turned from rocky to surreal to dysfunctional. It’s an unusual structure, but Machado carries off with dazzling aplomb. She also occasionally breaks from first-person narration to address a “you”, a younger Machado from the past. This has the potential to be gimmicky, but the author does it to genuinely good effect: the “I” is grounded in the present, while the “you” gives the sense of being past everything, of looking back at land from an ice floe drifted out to sea. Above all, “In the Dream House” is a powerful illustration of the ways that abusers know how to show themselves to best advantage, how to cast their victims into shadow and doubt, their tactics seemingly so simple, with no art to them, which of course is art. Machado understood very keenly how it is to receive a love you could not understand why you were worthy of it. Sorrow for her dragged at me, bearing me down, as her ex-girlfriend—the woman from the Dream House—picked up with quick and unflagging instinct the traces of everything in the world Machado was most insecure about, how she liked to raise her hopes with a look and break them with another. The manipulation, the gaslighting, and here a chapter called Choose Your Own Adventure, an exercise in futility as Machado struggles to follow the complex footwork that led them to that dysfunctional conversational pivot. The carefully curated insults falling like granite, against which soft things might smash and be broken, and the following kindnesses that stung worse than cruelty would have done. That impulse, too: to keep it inside, to hide it—in the raw hope that burying it all away will diminish its power and give it a less vital and terrible form. How easy it could all be forgotten, distilled into habit and convenience. “Sit with this,” Machado urges herself, “don’t forget it’s happening.” Later, an understanding, like a thumb pressed to her throat: “This is not normal. This is not normal. This is not normal.” There are no bounds to how many emotional octaves the author can reach, and my heart felt as raw as a burn by the end. As we plow ahead, barreling toward the closing pages, Machado writes—paraphrasing the final lines of a Panamanian folktale—“my tale goes only to here; it ends, and the wind carries it off to you”. The story might be over, but for many readers—who could say none of their own, but saved it in their chests, where it did not need to be spoken—it will echo on and on. ☆ ko-fi ★ blog ☆ twitter ★ tumblr ☆

  4. 5 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 fu 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.

  5. 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 gene 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    You enjoy reading memoirs because you like to get a better understanding of people, how they think and feel, to learn different perspectives. You are lesbian and particularly enjoy memoirs by people in the LGBQT+ community. You see this memoir come out (ha ha!) about a lesbian relationship and you notice a lot of people really love it. You assume you will too. You read and read and you don't ever get inside the author's head or have any idea of what she thinks and feels. You don't because she ra You enjoy reading memoirs because you like to get a better understanding of people, how they think and feel, to learn different perspectives. You are lesbian and particularly enjoy memoirs by people in the LGBQT+ community. You see this memoir come out (ha ha!) about a lesbian relationship and you notice a lot of people really love it. You assume you will too. You read and read and you don't ever get inside the author's head or have any idea of what she thinks and feels. You don't because she rarely describes her feelings and she writes in the freaking second person present tense and you're like "What the hell is this? Who writes a memoir in the second person??". However, since the author writes very well, you continue reading, hoping she'll eventually open up and really let you into her life. You'll eventually get a sense of who she is. You're hoping she'll stop writing as though you the reader are the one going through all this instead of the author. You wonder what so many people love about this book that maybe would work for you as a novel (you doubt it because you'd still not get to know the characters), but as a memoir? Nope, just not doing it for you. OK, that's enough writing in the second person; I'll stop trying to make the review about you the reader and let you know that this review is what I think about the book. Better? Again, what the hell???  Perhaps Ms. Machado thought that by writing in the second person, the reader would feel like they were in her shoes and maybe wonder how they would feel if they were. And maybe that's what it did for some people, but for me? I kept reading the book wondering if I would ever learn anything about what she was feeling. Perhaps it was too painful for her to write in the first person but in that case, it wasn't time for her to write a memoir about painful experiences and she should have waited until she'd had therapy and worked through her feelings. Maybe Ms. Machado simply wanted to bring awareness to the fact that same-sex relationships can be unhealthy and abusive, just as straight ones sometimes are. If that was all she wanted to do, then she did that very well. Maybe a lot of people were unaware of this fact, but being lesbian, I've known of three abusive relationships between women over the years. Therefore, I didn't need to read the book but I am glad the book sheds light on this topic which is rarely ever talked about. As a memoir however, the book just didn't work for me. There were entire chapters describing movies and tv episodes. Who does that? It's a memoir, not TV Guide!  I know almost as little about Carmen Machado as I did prior to reading this book. I don't even know how she and her ex-girlfriend supported themselves. There was talk of various places they lived, but not about what they did to pay the rent and buy groceries -- did they even buy groceries and pay the rent or did they squat illegally? And feelings? I don't think I've ever read a memoir where the author talked so little about how they felt. Or even what they were thinking. She merely relates a few emotionally abusive episodes and some of the manipulation tactics her ex used on her and then goes on with the movie references and a lot of discussion (repetitive) about how there can be abuse in same-sex relationships. It's elegantly written but........ You probably won't read any more of her books, especially not a memoir if she happens to write another in the future. You are glad this book is finished, though it wasn't a terrible read. Still, you are ready to move on to better books. Yay for you! I mean...  me. 4 stars for the quality of the writing. 1 star for content.  

  7. 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 closene 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

  8. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    This was absolutely incredible. Just, wow.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Gabby

    Wow, this is a very powerful memoir about an abusive same-sex relationship. I listened to the audiobook for this, and this story was honestly felt like reading her diary - it was so raw and honest and devastating, plus the writing is absolutely gorgeous. I haven't read about abuse in a same-sex relationship before, so this book definitely shines a light on something very important. But with quotes like this one, I was blown away by the writing: “A reminder to remember: just because the sharpness Wow, this is a very powerful memoir about an abusive same-sex relationship. I listened to the audiobook for this, and this story was honestly felt like reading her diary - it was so raw and honest and devastating, plus the writing is absolutely gorgeous. I haven't read about abuse in a same-sex relationship before, so this book definitely shines a light on something very important. But with quotes like this one, I was blown away by the writing: “A reminder to remember: just because the sharpness of the sadness has faded does not mean that it was not, once, terrible. It means only that time and space, creatures of infinite girth and tenderness, have stepped between the two of you, and they are keeping you safe as they were once unable to.”

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Winner of the Lambda Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction 2020 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 Winner of the Lambda Award for LGBTQ Nonfiction 2020 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.

  11. 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 clearl ★★★✰✰ 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

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elle (ellexamines)

    Oh my god. Um. Oh my god. This is the best book I have read, or will read, this year.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Such a powerful memoir about a horrifying abusive relationship. In spare vignettes, Carmen Maria Machado documents the beginning, middle, and end of her relationship with an ex-girlfriend who threatened, humiliated, and tried to control her. I’m a sucker for short chapters and Machado writes them well here, describing the terror and confusion she felt at the hands of her ex-girlfriend with concise and exacting detail. With courageous honesty, she shares both the desire she felt for her ex-girlfr Such a powerful memoir about a horrifying abusive relationship. In spare vignettes, Carmen Maria Machado documents the beginning, middle, and end of her relationship with an ex-girlfriend who threatened, humiliated, and tried to control her. I’m a sucker for short chapters and Machado writes them well here, describing the terror and confusion she felt at the hands of her ex-girlfriend with concise and exacting detail. With courageous honesty, she shares both the desire she felt for her ex-girlfriend at the beginning of their relationship and her want to feel wanted, as well as the gaslighting she experienced and the difficulty she encountered in seeing the truth of her relationship even when her ex hurt her. As someone who grew up with an emotionally abusive mother, I related viscerally to some of the sentiments Machado shares, like when she wishes that she had a bruise or a physical indication that her ex had abused her even though she knows that wishing for that is awful in its own way. I appreciated Machado’s commentary on the minimization of abuse in queer relationships in relation to the overall lack of representation of queer relationships, especially lesbian relationships. Though I know relationships between two women and two men are in some ways incomparable, it made me think about how we often turn away from critically examining queer relationships just because we’re often grateful for the representation at all – like Call Me By Your Name , which includes its own emotionally unsatisfying/obsessive relationship (which I recognize is different from the relationship Machado describes in this memoir), or the oftentimes toxic relationship between Brian and Justin in Queer as Folk. Machado does a great job centering women’s romantic relationships with one another in In the Dream House without glorifying or fetishizing them. At times I felt pulled out of the narrative when Machado included some of the more experimental chapters, the ones that strayed from describing her relationship with her ex-girlfriend and her own life. At the same time I recognize that these chapters could have served to represent how the mind often deals with trauma, through taking oneself out of the event and dissociating into alternative narratives. I think a part of me wanted a little more from this memoir – such as her healing process after the relationship aside from her developing a romantic relationship with Val – though I totally respect Machado’s decision to include whatever she wanted to and did not want to in this memoir. Recommended for fans of memoir and queer books and books about relationships.

  14. 5 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Thank you Libro.fm and the publisher for the gifted audio. Carmen Maria Machado narrates the audio, and this almost always knocks things out of the park for me when it’s a memoir. In this case, as you can see by my stars, Machado absolutely knocked it out of the park. Machado tells her story of falling in love while also simultaneously falling to a toxic, abusive relationship. We may think we have read memoirs on that topic before, but not with this nuanced voice, and not this story. In the Dream Thank you Libro.fm and the publisher for the gifted audio. Carmen Maria Machado narrates the audio, and this almost always knocks things out of the park for me when it’s a memoir. In this case, as you can see by my stars, Machado absolutely knocked it out of the park. Machado tells her story of falling in love while also simultaneously falling to a toxic, abusive relationship. We may think we have read memoirs on that topic before, but not with this nuanced voice, and not this story. In the Dream House is smart, empowering, and emotionally raw. I am so grateful Machado shared her indelible story because I imagine it will be impactful on everyone who spends time with it. Many of my reviews can also be found on instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Dacus

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

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kai

    “Love cannot be won or lost; a relationship doesn't have a scoring system. We are partners, paired against the world. We cannot succeed if we are at odds with each other.” People kept telling me, basically shouting at me (in the nicest way possible) to pick up this book and read it. They said it was outstanding. They were right. I read this book in under 24 hours because once I started, I was unable to stop thinking about it. I don't tend to read memoirs and I've only developed an interest in nonf “Love cannot be won or lost; a relationship doesn't have a scoring system. We are partners, paired against the world. We cannot succeed if we are at odds with each other.” People kept telling me, basically shouting at me (in the nicest way possible) to pick up this book and read it. They said it was outstanding. They were right. I read this book in under 24 hours because once I started, I was unable to stop thinking about it. I don't tend to read memoirs and I've only developed an interest in nonfiction over the last year or so. Oh, and I mainly read YA. But truth be told, I didn't even know this was a memoir. I thought it was some type of haunted house short story collection and to be fair, I wasn't entirely wrong. In the Dream House reads like a novel. Like a sharp, intelligent, complex, haunting, addictive novel infused with queer history and activism. You tell yourself that this cannot be real, knowing full well it can. It is. Abuse is not limited to heteronormative relationships. Queer relationships experience abuse but because queerness and the fragile and hard-won rights that come with it are constantly threatened and scrutinised by a society that hates LGBTQIA+ folks, we have even more reasons to be afraid of speaking out. Which makes this book in particular so much more important. I admire Carmen Maria Machado. Her writing is mesmerising, and as much as I wanted to stop reading at times, I couldn't. There were a number of moments when I felt so seen, when I understood things about myself that I'd never thought out loud. I couldn't recommend this book any higher and it instantly became on of my all time favourites. I need to pick up Her Body and Other Parties ASAP. Find more of my books on Instagram

  18. 5 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 ofte 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Skyler Autumn

    2 Stars I don't usually review books that are about a survivor recounting their journey because I believe these stories should be told whether writing is something you are gifted at or not. That's why I never rated Chanel Miller's Know My Name because although there were flaws in style and presentation who am I to tell a survivor that they didn't do their own story justice. That being said although abuse in queer relationships are stories that need to be told. The fact of the matter is Carmen 2 Stars I don't usually review books that are about a survivor recounting their journey because I believe these stories should be told whether writing is something you are gifted at or not. That's why I never rated Chanel Miller's Know My Name because although there were flaws in style and presentation who am I to tell a survivor that they didn't do their own story justice. That being said although abuse in queer relationships are stories that need to be told. The fact of the matter is Carmen Maria Machado wrote this book like a professional 'I know my shit' writer. She did not tell her story in plain English she used fancy language and experimental techniques. She showed us she is a "proper" writer so if that's how she wants to tell her story then she is opening herself up to assholes like me that are going to review it. I am clearly in the minority here when I say that I did not enjoy... feels like the wrong word. Let's say I just felt nothing for this memoir. No sympathy, no outrage, no freakin interest. There was so much fluffy writing and fancy metaphors that I had to drudge through to get to the actual story. By the time I got to the meat and bones of this abusive relationship I was so bored and spent by the reading journey. Taking readers in and out of her actual abusive relationship with flower-y imagery just made me as reader feel disconnected and a bit confused. How am I suppose to sit and feel this trauma the author faced when she keeps pulling me away from it. It was as if a friend was coming up to me being like "Hey this woman I'm dating spent the night screaming at me as I hid in the shower" and before I can really wrap my mind around that bomb my friend just dropped she goes, "Look at that flower isn't it beautiful, looks at the colours and what they symbolize." Thats distracting right? The impact of the first sentence kind of loses its weight. Now imagine that kind of whiplash in an entire novel. Overall, this memoir felt like an essay that needed a shit ton of filler to make a novel. The dramatic ass words and weird little research snippets of old movies just felt like the author was really trying to stretch a 5 page novella. I wish this story could have been stripped down to its core so I could actually feel and understand the difficulty of being in an abusive queer relationship instead of feeling like my usual sociopathic self for not caring and being on the precipice of DNFing.

  21. 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 a 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

  22. 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 emotionally removed. I 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.

  23. 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 con 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.

  24. 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, t 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 5 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 communi 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.

  27. 4 out of 5

    CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian

    An INCREDIBLE memoir. The content is a subject that doesn't get nearly enough attention: domestic abuse in queer relationships. It's horrifying. On top of the unique content, Machado is playing w/ form throughout the book, (re)telling the story through the lens of folk tale tropes, genres, and formats (including a harrowing "choose your own adventure" section). She often talks about her past self as "you" giving the reader an unsettling intimacy. Somehow this is compulsively readable despite the An INCREDIBLE memoir. The content is a subject that doesn't get nearly enough attention: domestic abuse in queer relationships. It's horrifying. On top of the unique content, Machado is playing w/ form throughout the book, (re)telling the story through the lens of folk tale tropes, genres, and formats (including a harrowing "choose your own adventure" section). She often talks about her past self as "you" giving the reader an unsettling intimacy. Somehow this is compulsively readable despite the dark content.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Brilliant, painful, clever, impossible to put down. My heart hurts.

  29. 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 boo 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.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [4+] In the Dream House pulled me in and spun me around. I loved the short bursts of chapters and and the sharp and exquisite writing. So this is what a memoir can be!

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