A Life in Fragments
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Published in: March-April 2020 issue.


In the Dream House:  A Memoir
by Carmen Maria Machado
Graywolf Press. 272 pages, $26.



EVERYONE makes ill-considered decisions, and Carmen Maria Machado is no exception. In this picaresque memoir, she raises some perplexing questions: What is deviant pleasure? What happens when it gets you thrown into jail? Do you fight back, flee, kill, or forgive? Her episodic love story raises some tough challenges that cut like a whiplash across race, class, gender, and religion.

            The writer’s unconventional style has been touted by critics as “genre-crushing,” “urgently true,” and “unflinching.” Yet after finishing the book, I found myself questioning these accolades. The author is a queer woman of Cuban descent. Her survivor’s tale follows an impressive collection of short stories, 2017’s Her Body and Other Parties, which The New York Times cited as among the books that are shaping 21st-century fiction. Nonetheless, her latest book was rejected by over thirty publishers before Graywolf took it on. It is a fragmented narrative written many years after the end of a failed affair.

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Cassandra Langer is the author ofRomaine Brooks: A Life.