Archives and Manuscripts Blog 8, Silence in the Archives

This week Carmen Maria Machado released an experimental memoir, In the Dream House, and last night through the Free Library she spoke about the memoir at a free event. I was lucky enough to go, and during this event she echoed what she had said about the book in the prologue and what reviewers had picked up on; this memoir as the first entry into an archive. Domestic violence and queer people have proven difficult to find in archives. Machado recounted at the event that she had reached out to one of the most notable historians of lesbians as to whether any historical sources covering domestic abuse between women existed and Faderman was unable to come up with much. Machado did continue on in her search and in one chapter, “Dream House as Ambiguity”, talks about some of the rare cases where women who loved(and abused) other women were visible. The women she mentions in this chapter killed their abusive female partners, and Machado addresses why they are the subject of this section, “The nature of archival silence is that certain people’s narratives and their nuances are swallowed by history; we only see what pokes through because it is sufficiently salacious for the majority to pay attention.” With this book Machado is both releasing a memoir and attempting to start an archive of sorts.(Though she has acknowledged some works by queer authors about domestic abuse). While these stories can be difficult to tell, it would be something to start looking into oral histories and other sources to try to build a collection around this subject.

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