Thirty-three-year-old Carmen Maria Machado is a bit of a wunderkind, prestigious enough to warrant a Wikipedia page, but too young for it to be much more than a list of her accomplishments. Shortlisted for the 2017 National Book Award for her debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties
, Machado has also received a National Book Critics Circle Award and Lambda Literary Award, and been a finalist for the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize, Nebula Award, and Shirley Jackson Award, among others.
Though race rarely figures directly into Machado’s work — in a 2018 interview with The Rumpus, she noted, “I am Latina, more or less white-presenting, and writing about race is a thing that I have not done a ton of, because I feel like I exist in a liminal space where I don’t want to take space away from women who are experiencing racism in a more intense, visual way than I am.” — her short stories and forthcoming memoir, In the Dream House
, are intensely concerned with otherness, queerness, and the ways cultural biases and proscriptions imprint themselves on the female psyche.
Drawing on the lexicons of folklore, the 19th-century Gothic, horror, popular culture, and American society’s evolving ideas about female corporeality, Machado excels at telling stories about women on the edge. One of the delights of reading her work is the way Machado manipulates popular — but not traditionally “literary” — forms like urban legend, screenwriting, and books constructed for children (for example, the Choose Your Own Adventure series) to hold a funhouse mirror up to society; though the embarrassments and violence her characters suffer will resonate with most readers, finding them embedded in ghost stories and episodes of Law & Order: SVU
demonstrates just how saturated with brutality and otherness popular American ideas of femaleness really are.
Powell’s bookseller Cosima C. writes, “[Her Body and Other Parties
is] a book that brings striking form to female pain and queer desire, and each story is a feast woven together with sentences that are good enough to eat,” a sentiment shared by many on the Powell’s staff. We love Machado for her candor and stylistic innovation; for the way both horror and the erotic thread through her work; and for her youth; reading Machado’s fiction, it feels possible to rescript centuries of female subjugation into a present and future narrative of autonomy, celebration, and triumph.
More favorite books by Latinx and Hispanic women authors:
by Jasminne Mendez
Juliet Takes a Breath
by Gabby Rivera