Award-winning author Carmen Maria Machado shared excerpts from her memoir "In the Dream House" at Kelly Writers House on Monday night.
Machado, a writer in residence at Penn, read chapters from her memoir detailing her abusive relationship with her ex-girlfriend. "In the Dream House," a Los Angeles Times bestseller, was published in October 2019 and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.
She has won several awards for her work in fiction, including the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bard Fiction Prize. Her collection of short stories, "Her Body and Other Parties," was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2017.
At the event, Machado read an excerpt from her memoir detailing a stressful car ride with her ex-girlfriend, in which Machado's driving prompted an argument between the two. Her ex-girlfriend, who had an issue with the way Machado drove, took the wheel and began to drive erratically, Machado said.
Another anecdote Machado shared detailed an uncomfortable visit to her doctor. She said her doctor told her that her weight was the source of health issues, but Machado said she believed the source of her stress was actually her relationship with her ex-girlfriend.
The only 125-pound weight I need to lose is sitting in the waiting room, Machado said, referring to her ex-girlfriend.
In another chapter, Machado detailed her experience living in a house in West Philadelphia with her ex-girlfriend, which she said was dirty and pest-ridden.
“As for the cockroaches, they made me feel like I was on the verge of madness,” she said. “They moved into the digital clock of our microwave, and I could see them silhouetted there.”
“City life!” Machado added in response to uncomfortable laughter from the audience.
More than 40 students attended the event, causing the venue to run out of chairs. After reading excerpts from her memoir, Machado took questions from her audience.
College sophomore Kennedy Crowder said she was “excited” to see Machado and ask about her writing process. She said she appreciated how Machado's memoir represented the beginning of her personal healing journey.
Another student, College first-year Isabella Schlact, said she loved the event despite not having read Machado’s work.
“I was enchanted. I was totally drawn into the words that she was reading,” she said.
Machado is currently on sabbatical from teaching, but she said will return to Penn next spring to teach writing courses, including a speculative fiction course and a creative nonfiction course.