In this daringly structured and ruthlessly inquisitive memoir, Machado (Her Body and Other Parties, 2017) examines an abusive relationship with an eye to both personal truth and cultural assumption.
The author begins with a declaration. “I speak into the silence,” she says. “I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.” She is writing to record her experience of queer sexuality and intimate psychological violence; by telling her story, she's committing its existence to history. History has largely ignored the queer experience, particularly the existence of domestic abuse between queer women. As Machado points out, when you are invisible from the collective narrative, it is harder to imagine what your own feelings mean. The relationship at the heart of this memoir is resurrected with visceral potency. Instead of tracing her past with linear continuity, the author fractures it, diving into beautifully or painfully remembered moments with a harrowing emotional logic. As Machado recounts, she fell in love with a woman who seemed wonderful—they had sex, went on road trips, met parents—but who eventually became oppressively terrifying. In other sections, the author recounts an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and illuminates the imagery of abuse in two films by George Cukor. Machado uses slippery changes in point of view and a knack for translating emotion into concrete sensation to slide readers into her space, where they experience the fear and confusion of abuse from the inside. She applies the astonishing force of her imagination and narrative skill to her own life, framing chapters with storytelling motifs (unreliable narrator, star-crossed lovers, choose-your-own-adventure) and playful footnotes. Occasionally, the various parts muddle each other’s trajectories, but the heart of this history is clear, deeply felt, and powerful.
A fiercely honest, imaginatively written, and necessary memoir from one of our great young writers.