English Dept. hosts award-winning author Carmen Maria Machado

Sean Schmoyer, Asst. News Editor

As part of the Allan Hamilton Dickson Fund Spring Writers Series, the Wilkes English Department recently hosted award-winning author Carmen Maria Machado.

Machado’s short story collection titled Her Body and Other Parties has won the Bard Fiction Prize, the Shirley Jackson Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the Richard Yates Short Story Prize, among other awards.

While on campus Machado conducted a workshop with Wilkes students from the English department.

Maddie Davis
Aside from her short story reading in the evening, Machado also visited upper-level English courses for workshops.

The reading pulled in a large crowd of students, Wilkes faculty, and visitors from the community. Machado has gained fame as an accomplished writer, but also as being a member and supporter of the LGBTQ community. Machado is also recognized as a member of The New York Times’ “The New Vanguard,” with Her Body and Other Parties a collection of 15 books written by female fiction authors of the 21st century.

Jay Guziewicz, sophomore, psychology major, said, “I think my favorite part about meeting Carmen was just how welcoming she was. A lot of times I expect people, especially those who are published and award winning authors, to be a little cold, but she wasn’t at all. From the moment she started reading one of her short stories, to when I actually met her, I could just tell how genuine she really was, and that was really compelling and I appreciated that about her.”

At the reading Machado read two excerpts, one from her short story “Blur” and the other from her upcoming memoir In the Dream House, which will release this fall. The two excerpts each tell a similar story but through different narratives.

“Blur” tells a fictional story of a woman on her way to meet with her girlfriend, one who is described as controlling and overbearing. While driving the woman makes a stop at a gas station bathroom where she loses her glasses. Unable to see, the woman panics about how her girlfriend will react to her being late as she is unable to drive without her glasses.

While trying to figure out what to do the woman is approached by the man who convinces her to walk her way to her girlfriend even if it will take days, saying that her girlfriend can’t be mad if she is late if she came to her on her hands and knees.

He then tells her a story of a woman and a monster, one in which the monster gives a woman gifts which keeps the woman coming back to the monster every night. This fictional tale of both the woman who loses her glasses and the woman who is with the monster reflects toxic relationships and the struggles both men and women experience no matter their sexuality.

The second excerpt, being from Machado’s memoir, is based on a true experience of Machado’s life with her then girlfriend. This story once again highlights a demanding and controlling girlfriend, and the excerpt along with a large amount of Machado’s memoir is about domestic violence in queer relationships.

After the two readings Machado took questions from the audience. Brianna Schunk, junior, english major, asked Machado, “Do you have any life advice for young queer woman specifically, like in terms of identity and if you want to tie it to writing that would be awesome?”

Machado’s answer resonated with other members of the audience who are also members of the LGBTQ community.

“I think that identity is fluid, and that is normal. Also write the stories that you want to see in the world. The number one type of person who comes to talk to me are queer folk, who say that they have never read anything like my work. That they haven’t read stories that are just about queer people living their life. Write the books you want to read,” said Machado.

“I attended the event partly because of the fact that I’m an English minor, so I like to go to events hosted by the English department. I also had heard about Carmen previously from my sister, who had always talked positively about her works. I also have to say that I was swayed to attend the event because I’m a young LGBT person, and having someone who has won awards in LGBT writing come to campus was really exciting for me,” said Guziewicz.

Machado finished out the event by signing copies of Her Body and Other Parties for those in attendance. A television show of Her Body and Other Parties is being made by FX and her new memoir is coming out this fall, so those who are interested in the Machado’s work should keep an eye out for updates about both.