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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Women and their bodies

Carmen Maria Machado’s book “Her Body And Other Parties.” PHOTO: CHARLEY REKSTIS ’20/THE HAWK

Author speaks about underrepresented women

Award-winning author and former St. Joe’s adjunct professor, Carmen Maria Machado did a reading from her book of short stories, “Her Body and Other Parties.” 

Machado read her story, “8 Bites,” about a woman having bypass surgery so she can be thin enough to bring her closer to what society considers an ideal body image for a woman.

 “Back on earth, Dr. U is inside me,” Machado read to a diverse group of students and faculty who attended the event in McShain Hall Feb. 6. “Her hands are in my torso, her fingers searching for something. She is loosening flesh from its casing. Slipping around where she’s been welcome. Talking to a nurse about her recent vacation to Chile.” 

“Her Body and Other Parties” is a collection of eight narratives, each of which tells a story about women and their bodies.

“Whether we’re talking about queerness or fatness or feminism or gender, all of these things had to do with the body and the way the body is criticized and sort of positioned in the world,” Machado said.

The stories in “Her Body and Other Parties” use elements of horror and mystery to write about women’s experiences of sexual violence, sexual orientation and body image. Machado said she uses specular fiction because it allows her to write without thinking about rules.

“Writing is about self-discovery,” Machado said. “It’s about figuring out what you’re interested in, what you’re obsessed with and what is sort of going on in your own head.”

Aisha Lockridge, Ph.D., associate professor of English, said she thought Machado’s book created a space that made visible voices that are present but often coerced into silence.

“These stories are important now because they amplify the voices of silenced intersectional minorities, some of whom may find themselves in privileged spaces alone, routinely having their opinions overlooked, dismissed, disrespected,” Lockridge said. “She writes their wholeness into being, making them undeniable.”

Machado used different voices and facial expressions to convey different emotions as she read about a woman’s struggle with her weight.

“There was a poetic rhythm to it that I really enjoyed,” Sydney Villard ’19 said. “And having a voice to it always helps, I think, when it comes to picturing things.” 

In her stories Machado addresses the reader directly and gives them instructions.

“I really liked the idea of having stage directions and thinking in what way can I as a writer reach out in the story,” said Machado.

Maggie Nealon ’20 said the ability to connect with characters drew her to literature.

“I think there are multiple storylines and different characterizations,” Nealon said. “And there’s just more for people to be drawn to and connect to in the story, so I think it opens it up to a wider audience.”

At the end of her talk Machado answered audience questions about her methods of writing and storytelling.

“Sometimes this is the truth about writers, sometimes you just do things because you want to do them and you don’t have a super deep reason for doing it and that’s the horrible truth,” Machado said. “Sometimes you decide to do it for no good reason.”

Nealon said she felt represented in Machado’s book since diverse groups are not often represented in artists who speak at St. Joe’s.

“It’s really important for us to have on campus because it allows marginalized groups on campus to see this representation and inspiration from people who have been successful in life with what they love doing,” Nealon said.

Machado said “Her Body and Other Parties” is in the process of being considered for a television series.

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