I have heard all the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them…
If I had to summarize Carmen Maria Machado’s debut collection in one word, it would be haunting. I’ve never read anything like most of these stories, which is really exciting as a big reader (my fellow big readers can attest to this feeling). Her stories are imaginative and diverse across subjects, but she always connects back to the female body. The female body is presented as the site of erasure, manipulation, motherhood, sexuality, and abuse to name a few examples.
The collection opens with one of her most popular pieces, The Husband Stitch, which was widely read and shared over social media earlier this year. Her story brought awareness of a medical practice to the mainstream when it had otherwise been erased. The ‘husband stitch’ refers to a practice where husbands/doctors either request or suggest a tightening of the women’s anatomy after the birth of a child (if you want to read more click here). This story sets the tone for the rest of the collection as a fairy tale, horror, Gothic-esque assemblage. There are plagues, dead rabbits, and overall strange happenings. My favourite piece in the collection is called “Inventory”. The narrator provides a list of her sexual partners and context to those sexual encounters during the slow spread of a plague.
Machado has also been nominated for a Shirley Jackson award in three categories (Novelette, Short Fiction, and Single-author collection). I would recommend this collection to anyone who feels like they need some more surrealist female/queer fiction in their lives (which should really be all of us).