Recommending authors like Carmen María Machado is a difficult thing to do. I’ve read both In the Dream House and Her Body and Other Parties and I can’t categorize either of them in one single genre. Machado’s writing is a beautiful mishmash of things, I guess that’s why even she describes both her books as experimental. I also love that her writing includes social commentary, usually about the prejudices and violence women face every day. It all comes together in a very magical yet extremely real writing style that still shocks me whenever I read it.
So what else can I do but recommend authors with weird, mishmashed stories that put a mirror up to society?
Here are five authors like Carmen María Machado for those of you who, like me, can’t get her stunning prose out of your minds.
Authors Like Carmen María Machado
Myriam Gurba, like Machado, doesn’t shy away from tackling social issues in her writing (I mean, Gurba’s the one who wrote that review of Dirt). She writes mostly about her Mexican heritage, weaving humor, folktales, race and violence in her stories. Her memoir, Mean, is particularly noteworthy. Its elements of true crime mixed with her upbringing as a queer Chicana make for a heartrending yet fun read. She also wrote Painting Their Portraits in Winter, a collection of weird short stories reminiscent of Her Body and Other Parties.
Krystal A. Smith
Krystal Smith writes poetry and speculative fiction. Like Machado, Smith writes about human emotions and their complexity in beautiful prose (and verse). She recently released her first poetry collection about love, titled This is Not About Love. But her short story collection is the one that shines through. Two Moons talks about women’s bodies and the horrors they endure (sound familiar?) in a very visceral way. But it also takes some sweeter breaks to talk about lesbian love.
Mariana Enríquez has several novels and short story collections in Spanish. Although only two of her books have been translated to English, they show just how unconventional her stories can be. Just like Machado’s. She’s also known for including social commentary in her work regarding themes like violence against women. As far as authors like Carmen María Machado go, Enriquez’s work has a lot of similarities. Both of her translated short story collections deal with the macabre, and have witches, ghosts and magic. They’re called The Dangers of Smoking in Bed and Things We Lost in the Fire and are both mesmerizing works of literature.
All the authors in this list have unconventional stories with social commentary, and Nalo Hopkinson is no exception. She often includes Caribbean folklore, Afro-Caribbean culture, and feminism in her stories. And she doesn’t shy away from exploring race, class and sexuality. She has several SFF novels, and most notable for this list is her short story collection titled Skin Folk. In it, people are not what they seem. It also has post-apocalyptic futures, lesbian erotica, a Bluebeard retelling that deals with colorism, and so much more that is definitely worth reading.
Kelly Link exclusively writes short stories. Her collections have been described as slipstream, which basically means that her work jumps between science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and realism. So, like Machado, her stories defy the boundaries of defined genres. Although she doesn’t really focus on speaking about social issues, the way she writes is similar to Carmen María Machado. It’s quirky, smart and a bit spooky. The book Stranger Things Happen is an especially odd collection that features aliens, dead men, and girl detectives who travel to the underworld.
Carmen María Machado really is a talented writer. Did you know she took the OG vampire story, Carmilla, and changed it into a positive queer narrative? There’s no one quite like her, but these authors are a good complement to her style!
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