This Writer’s On Fire: Carmen Maria Machado -The Toast

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“Machado’s work doesn’t just have form, it takes form. Hers is a greedy oeuvre… in [her] stories, form is uncanny, sly, a pool of raindrops, a slightly skewed face in the mirror. We’ve seen it all before, but never quite like this.” —“Double Take: On Carmen Maria Machado” by Sofia Samatar in Los Angeles Review of Books

Carmen Maria Machado’s stories build and build until they surround and ensnare, and at the end you’re always glad to be all tangled up.” –NPR

Who she is

Carmen Maria Machado earned her MFA from The University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her stories have been nominated for, placed, and/or finalists in almost every award you’re familiar with or have coveted yourself, like the South Million Writers Award, the Franz Kafka Award in Magic Realism, and the Nebula Awards.

Why you should read her

Machado tells the stories that are hidden just beneath the stories you think you know. The stories you’ve been waiting for without knowing it. There’s always a moment of slippage with Machado’s work. Everything looks familiar, feels familiar; it’s not. She uses the media we are so used to seeing every day to say other things. She makes the everyday tropes of our lives speak in different tongues. Like the Kickstarter in Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead — it takes a moment to understand that Machado is using this too-familiar story of someone trying to raise money online to tell us a deeply unfamiliar story about things that are absolutely familiar: family and loss. Nesting dolls of stories: each doll seems to be the right shape, but is not quite a doll, not quite what we expect. Each story contains another story that’s not the story we thought we were reading. There’s no bottom to it. In Machado’s multiverse, it’s stories all the way down.

Machado takes the familiar (TV episode summaries, that guy on the plane who won’t shut up, that ghost story you’ve heard before, purity rings) and lights it up. She reveals new shapes, new forms, what’s been hidden right there all along: pain, joy, pleasure, horror. She uses fiction and non-fiction to crack open the world we think we know to reveal the wonder (in every forgotten sense of that word) inside. This writer makes miracles, connecting worlds that have been separated from each other, from us, for too long.

Where to find her work:


The Husband Stitch in Granta

Descent in Nightmare Magazine

Mothers in Interfictions

Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead in Lightspeed Magazine

Observations About Eggs from the Man Sitting Next to Me on a Flight from Chicago, Illinois to Cedar Rapids, Iowa in Lightspeed Magazine

The Squeeze in KGB Bar Lit Magazine

Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU in The American Reader

Non-fiction, essays, interviews:

O Adjunct! My Adjunct! in The New Yorker

A Girl’s Guide to Sexual Purity in Los Angeles Review of Books

Luxury Shopping, from the Other Side of the Register in The New Yorker

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