In the Dream House
by Carmen Maria Machado
“If you need this book, then this is for you.” and thus starts Carmen Maria’s harrowing yet exquisitely written memoir about the complexities of abuse in queer relationships, In the Dream House.
They say that it is difficult to put language to something for which you have no language, so Machado does everything she can to push the boundaries of a traditional memoir. She reshapes the very definition of it into something hauntingly beautiful by using the lens of speculative horror fiction. She creates her own language for this quandary of constructing a dream house, of expressing the unspeakable horror when the woman you love is a monster in disguise.
Homes are a metaphor, the Freudian idea of a basement endangering everything. Machado describes every chapter as a metaphor relating to her then home, the dream house, an isolated and eerie house in Bloomington, Indiana. She calls the dream house “dream house as lesbian pulp novel”, “dream house as I love lucy”, and several other interesting metaphors. These metaphors describe her frightening experiences in a subtle yet powerful way. We could have only imagined a memoir taking such a breathtakingly inventive form.
Machado creates the concept of “archival silence” where she screams until her story is soaked up in the “violence of the archive”. But, in telling her story, she also recounts many other stories of women before her that were lost in this shameful archive of silence. By writing this memoir, Machado’s most critical achievement for the queer community is breaking that silence. She points to lesbian stereotypes that make leaving an abusive relationship much harder.
“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,” she writes.
“In the dream house”, though terrifying, is a ravishingly excellent memoir. This is undoubtedly a must-read book, even if you are someone who doesn’t prefer memoirs.
How to Cure a Ghost
by Fariha Róisín
How to Cure a Ghost by Fariha Róisín, illustrated by Monica Ramos, is a collection of personal poems and essays that are autobiographical in nature. The book centres around the experiences of a brown, immigrant, Muslim, queer femme- Fariha Róisín- and her finding her place in a world that wasn’t created to accommodate people with any one of the aforementioned attributes, let alone all.
The book deals with several heavy subjects, ranging from generational trauma and rape to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The writer goes into depth to help us assimilate the abuse she went through, the homophobia she often encountered, the experiences of her as a Muslim immigrant in and around when 9/11 occurred, and her interpersonal relationships with her family and more. The book recounts her journey from self-loathing to self-acceptance and everything that came along the way that she had to deal with.
The writer’s anger, angst, disappointment, rage, resolve, and purpose stream freely and eloquently from her pen onto paper, weaving beautiful tapestries with succinct phrases.
The poems and essays themselves follow a very postmodern free verse style characterised by its lack of structure, lack of capitalization, irregular punctuation, and an uneven rhyme scheme (if present); a general disregard for “rules” traditionally associated with poetry. And this nonchalant, unconcerned yet composed, “improper” writing style is used to express the author’s emotions wondrously. Each word serves its purpose. Each word drives the narrative forward, and each word belongs there; it is as I type this that I wonder if it was a conscious choice made to reinforce the author’s belongingness in our world.
The essays and poems are interspersed with several stunning illustrations by Monica Ramos. While they exist to accompany the writings, it would be greatly unfair to dismiss them as mere accompaniments, each telling their own story- albeit visual. As a collective, the book will leave you stupefied, outraged, inspired, and roused. Even if you cannot relate to everything, chances are you will relate to some while still understanding the rest; making it an absolute must-read.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a coming-of-age story narrated from the point of view of Aristotle, one of the two titular characters. The book revolves around Aristotle and his friendship with Dante and what brings them together.
The book is absolutely beautiful. It’s impossible not to fall in love with both Aristotle and Dante and the people that surround them- their family. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the writing. The book doesn’t really have much of a plot; it is rather predictable, and if you’ve read something similar, you’d guess where the story will end. What sets it apart is just how endearing the characters are despite their plenty of quirks and flaws.
It really is just a story about a stubborn boy who is sad and angry but can’t figure out why. It is about his journey towards loving himself and loving the people around him. The narration goes deep into understanding Aristotle’s psyche- rife with teenage angst and anger, but with an abundance of love to give.
It takes the friendship of Dante, a happy-go-lucky, sunshine-and-butterflies boy, who isn’t afraid of showing his love to bring out the love from Aristotle. This book elegantly shows their friendship bloom into a hearty romance, unlike many other books that describe queer romances right from the get-go.
Aristotle deals with many uncertainties in his life- figuring out interpersonal relationships with his mother and father, learning about his brother, and coming to terms with his sexuality. His journey is what makes this book so effortlessly captivating and relatable to many teens who might feel lost in this world full of uncertainty.
This book is stunning, poignant, and unpretentious with its mesmerising scenes; reading it feels like sitting in a truck in the middle of a desert and staring at the night sky full of stars. It’s hard to fault this book. It’s harder to not love this book. An absolute must-read; do yourself a favour and pick up a copy.
by Christina Lauren
“A half-Jewish, half-nothing queer kid moves to an LDS-infested town. He can’t wait to leave.”
Tanner is a Jewish bisexual teen with a very supportive (and protective) family who has just moved in from a seemingly progressive California to a Mormon dominated city called Provo in Utah, which nudged him back to the closet. With only one semester of high school left, He and his best friend Autumn register for a class called Seminar, where the students have to draft an entire book within a semester.
This is where he meets Sebastian, the Mormon hotshot who got his novel published a year ago and is now working as a T.A who mentors students with their books.
Sebastian also turns out to be the Bishop’s son, which is unfortunate for Tanner as he had fallen head over heels for him.
We also loved how the relationship between Tanner and his family was healthy and wholesome, something which we don’t often read in queer novels.
Tanner grew up to be whoever he wanted to be, as his parents were very supportive, but we learn that Sebastian’s church is against homosexuality. While the church seems to have moved on from outright condemnation of homosexuality, it still doesn’t accept anyone acting on it. This puts Sebastian in a really difficult position in regard to coming to terms with his sexuality.
Over the course of the book, we see how a queer person feels when everyone around them treats queerness as something undesired, something over which they have no control. The heartache of loving your family, friends and yet being afraid to be yourself around them was very beautifully conveyed.
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren was superbly well-written, touching and heartwarming. The Novel brings out a myriad of emotions in the reader; it is definitely a must-read.
The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Scandal, gossip and industry politics – sultry 60s movie star Evelyn Hugo is suddenly determined to shed light on her controversial past to Monique Grant, a rookie news reporter. While her success as an actress could never be questioned, it was common knowledge that she had not been as lucky when it came to love – with a total of seven different husbands and several divorces. But in this story, there’s more than meets the eye.
‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’ by Taylor Jenkins Reid is an enthralling historical fiction novel set in the 1950-80s. A strong Cuban woman determined to make it big, Evelyn does not hesitate to bend the rules- be it seducing the staff or divorcing her poor husband- to achieve commercial success. Smart and stunning, she soon lands big roles, befriends huge names in the industry, and even marries a top movie star. However, as her love life proves to be complicated and her new friendships unlock surprising emotions within her, Evelyn quickly realizes that to gain the approval of the public, she must hide her true self.
It is the incredibly complex characters and realistic portrayal of romantic relationships that sets this book apart from the rest.
The struggles of a couple who truly loved each other but could never be together, the pains of a woman who wanted nothing but to be loved, the cold descriptions of abuse and betrayal- these scenes left the reader feeling heartbroken, yet wanting more. Added to all this is the big question that goes unanswered till the very end- who is Monique Grant and why was she chosen by Evelyn?
Heart-stirring and packed with emotion, this page-turner will surely give you a fresh perspective on racial identity, patriarchy, domestic abuse, divorce, and most prominently, the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in a time when homophobia was the norm.