Carmen Maria Machado is well known for her experimental writing style, which combines elements of fiction, autobiography, and horror. Queerness, identity, and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships are the major themes she addresses. Both Her Body and Other Parties and In the Dream House are excellent examples of Machado’s writing style that specifically focus on violence in LGBT relationships. As a relentless mouthpiece of the marginalized sections of the society, Machado has risen to prominence in the literary world.


Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is a personal, incisive book about her experience in an abusive same-sex relationship. The book also highlights the gap in knowledge of such relationships in academia, literature, and media.

The story begins in Iowa City, where Machado was staying with John and Laura while completing her Master’s of Fine Arts at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. At the first meeting with her abuser-to-be, whom she calls “the woman from the Dream House”, she feels an instant attraction to her. She even counts herself lucky when her feelings are reciprocated. Conscious about her weight, Machado clings to this attention as the relationship progresses.

Their relationship, however, deteriorates rapidly after they move into the Dream House in Bloomington, Indiana. As her partner’s hostility grows, Machado goes through unbearable mental and physical anguish. In the later chapters of the memoir, Machado describes further traumatic occurrences, including heated arguments, dangerous driving, and instances of gaslighting that left her feeling anxious to the point of vomiting. It becomes clear that the absence of services and support for LGBT victims of abuse is compounding the difficulty of her fight.

Machado confides in her flatmate, John, and later meets Val, who also becomes a support system as the violence continues. As their friendship deepens, they decide to start dating. At the end of the book, Machado looks back on her journey and the people who didn’t believe in her along the way.


Brave and insightful, In the Dream House delves into an intimate and rarely spoken subject. The problems LGBT people encounter in violent relationships are brought to light by Machado’s frank storytelling. The author, in general, calls for more inclusive representations in literature and culture. Machado’s heartbreaking story helps readers get a better understanding of the plight of the people who have endured violent relationships. This work sheds light on the tangled processes of abuse in marginalized communities.

Machado employs a non-traditional framework by devoting a chapter or fragment of her memoir to a variety of genres or tropes. These include ghost stories, erotica, and bildungsroman. Using this strategy, she is able to examine her situation from several vantage points.

The author also delves into her religious upbringing. By doing so, she challenges the common misconceptions about the safety of lesbian couples. The author even goes out of her way to compile a database of violent incidents in LGBT partnerships. In the end, she stresses the significance of telling one’s own story of queer abuse and offers links to further reading for those interested in learning more.


Some of Machado’s writing is too explicit for even the most seasoned readers, let alone those getting started in the genre. As a result, this might not be the most recommended read for children and teenagers.


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.

…abusers do not need to be, and rarely are, cackling maniacs. They just need to want something and not care how they get it.


Ameya Score:

In the Dream House has all the elements to be regarded as part of its own sub-genre. After all, it discusses the sensitive subjects of gay relationships and, especially, queer abuse. Readers with a thing for something new will not find this work disappointing.

Madhu book review writer at Ameya

A reverential admirer of words, Madhu loves watching them weave their bewitching magic on cozy afternoons.