In the Dream House: A book review

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The last time I wrote a book review was probably in elementary school unless you count my Goodreads reviews (which are extremely entertaining by the way) and in that case, I do these all the time! I decided to listen to In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado after it was recommended to me (shoutout to Courtney Hyland, Prevention Education Specialist), and I was completely subverted. I chose to listen to this book over physically reading it because it was narrated by Carmen herself. Hearing her voice, having a survivor tell you their own personal story of abuse is a completely overwhelming experience. While listening, it felt as though I was Carmen’s friend and I had just asked her what happened? with each chapter. It was almost as if she remembered a piece of the story this one time and oh, and this one time this happened. Unfortunately, it all felt a little too familiar.

I have been wanting to expand my resource base and knowledge on abuse in LGBTQIA relationships, so when I heard about Carmen’s relationship I knew that her story would be something of interest. My personal experiences are with heterosexual relationships, that is all I know and what I grew up learning. This is still what is largely portrayed today.

Author Carmen Maria Machado from New Yorker review
Carmen Maria Machado, Photograph by Art Streiber

I was having a conversation with my best friend about In the Dream House, and explaining that Carmen used real-world examples of lesbian domestic abuse court cases that were either overturned, misjudged, or completely ignored to illustrate that men have always been associated with power, control, and abuse. She argues that if a female abuser in a queer relationship does not fit the stereotypical image of a man, the case is less likely to be taken seriously versus if she appears “butch” or “masculine” (Machado’s language not mine). My friend’s response to this was “another reason to hate men!” and don’t get me wrong, as a 20-year-old college student, I am all aboard on the “men are trash” train, but this is simply proving Machado’s point right!

The most basic and main takeaway I got from In the Dream House, and this conversation, is that women can be just as abusive, and in some cases, even more abusive than men. Abuse in queer relationships deserves more attention, and survivors deserve more support. Don’t assume your friends are in a healthy relationship because they aren’t in the presence of a dominant man. Conversations should always be had, assumptions should never be made, and questions should always be asked.

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