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It is difficult to recommend authors like Carmen María Machado. I’ve read both In the Dream House and Her Body and Other Parties and I can’t put either of them into a single genre. Machado’s writing is a nice mix of things, I think that’s why even she describes both books as experimental. I also love that your writing includes social comments, usually about the prejudice and violence women face every day. It all comes together in a very magical but extremely real writing style that still shocks me when I read it.
So what can I do as a recommending writers with strange, jumbled stories that put society in a mirror?
Here are five writers like Carmen María Machado for those of you who, like me, can’t get their breathtaking prose out of their heads.
Authors like Carmen María Machado
Myriam Gurba, like Machado, isn’t shy about addressing social issues in her writing (I mean, Gurba is the one who wrote this review of Dirt). She mainly writes about her Mexican heritage, the weaving of humor, fairy tales, race and violence in her stories. Of particular note is her memoir Mean. Its elements of true crime mixed with her upbringing as queer chicana make for a heartbreaking yet entertaining read. She also wrote Painting Their Portraits in Winter, a collection of strange short stories reminiscent of her body and other parties.
Krystal A. Smith
Krystal Smith writes poetry and speculative fiction. Like Machado, Smith writes in beautiful prose (and verse) about human emotions and their complexities. She recently published her first collection of poems about love, entitled This is Not About Love. But her collection of short stories is the one that shows through. Two moons speak in a very visceral way about women’s bodies and the horrors they endure (sounds familiar?). But it also takes some sweeter pauses to talk about lesbian love.
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Mariana Enríquez has several novels and short story collections in Spanish. Although only two of her books have been translated into English, they show how unconventional their stories can be. Just like with Machado. She is also known for including social commentary on issues such as violence against women in her work. For writers like Carmen María Machado, Enriquez’s work has many similarities. Both translated collections of short stories deal with the macabre and have witches, ghosts, and magic. They are called The Dangers of Smoking in Bed and Things We Lost in Fire, and both are fascinating works of literature.
All of the writers on this list have unconventional stories with social commentary, and Nalo Hopkinson is no exception. She often incorporates Caribbean folklore, Afro-Caribbean culture, and feminism into her stories. And she doesn’t shy away from researching race, class, and sexuality. She has several SFF novels and most notable for this list is her collection of short stories called Skin Folk. In this, people are not what they seem. It also has post-apocalyptic futures, lesbian erotica, a retelling of Bluebeard that deals with colorism, and a lot more that is definitely worth reading.
Kelly Link only writes short stories. Her collections have been described as slipstream, which basically means her work jumps between science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realism. Like Machado, their stories defy the boundaries of defined genres. Although she doesn’t really focus on talking about social issues, the way she writes is similar to Carmen María Machado. It’s quirky, smart, and a little bit scary. The book Stranger Things Happen is a particularly curious collection of aliens, the dead, and detectives traveling to the underworld.
Carmen María Machado is really a talented writer. Did you know she turned the OG vampire story Carmilla into a positive queer narrative? There is no one like her, but these writers make a great addition to her style!
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