For those of us still traumatized by the 2016 Presidential election, the debut novel Her Body and Other Parties, by Carmen Maria Machado, is the emotional and intellectual release for which we have been waiting. It is electric with the #Resist spirit. It underscores the importance of the #MeToo movement. And, it tackles issues such as gender, language, and human interaction through a fresh, folkloric perspective. Winner of the Bard Fiction Prize and finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, the Kirkus Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, this collection of ten short stories is timeless, yet also a necessary way to transition from 2017 to 2018.
A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with an MFA in fiction, and current Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, Carmen Maria Machado has a deft hand at spinning culturally relative, purpose-driven narrative. Into each short story she’s woven elements of pop culture, feminist social criticism, literary fiction, and magical realism, varying each in measure. Threads of influence from authors such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, even a little Andrea Dworkin strengthen Machado’s overarching theme, which is a clear call for renewed efforts toward female liberation: Liberation for women to genuinely desire and enjoy sexual gratification without fear or stigma; liberation to be an individual with thoughts and actions and intimate moments separate from her spouse or lover; and, liberation to exist creatively outside the stereotypical confines of the male perspective.