First Chapter Thoughts: In the Dream House

My partner is actually the one who recommended this book to me (the wonderful Davey at @NotLisaDavis <3) and so far, I’m enthralled. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado is a creative non-fiction memoir that combines elements of slipstream, magical realism and literary fiction to talk about an abusive relationship from her past, as well as wider themes of abuse, PTSD, queerness and trauma.

For the ‘First Chapter Thoughts’, I stopped after both the prologue and the first very short snippet. The prologue is particularly notable – it begins by talking about the ‘violence of the archive’, a topic close to my heart. What is left out of any collection of history? What is untold? As a librarian and archaeologist, this is a topic I am intimately familiar with. The holes in what we receive in both those disciplines tell just as much of the story as the artifacts and books themselves. Why don’t we have artifacts from, say, disabled people in the Greek Bronze Age? Or explicit depictions of queer love from Ancient Egypt? The answer is that often we did… and they didn’t survive, either through implicit or explicit violence or bad-faith interpretations.

For Machado, she discusses the hole left by the lack of depictions of queer abuse. Queer love has been so rarely discussed and depicted to begin with – queer abuse is an untold story that we have to reassemble from gaps in what we have. And so she does this through the metaphor of the house – the “master’s house”, arkaios, archive, the Dream House. The first chapter builds this Dream House, talks about it, and builds the metaphor that isn’t really, truly, completely a metaphor.

I’ve been warned, and really getting the feeling that it’s true, that this book is going to emotionally wreck me. Let’s go.

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