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The Haunting Reality of Book Bans in America Today:

A Conversation with Carmen Maria Machado

Presented by the Tanner Humanities Center, Thursday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m., UMFA

by Missy Weeks


Carmen Maria Machado sits on a chair while leaning on a table on her right side. She is wearing a full black suit and black blouse. She has a stoic look as she stares into the camera. She has short dark hair and is wearing thin wireframe glasses

Carmen Maria Machado

Salt Lake City, UT — "As anyone can tell you — as history can tell you — this [banning books] is ultimately a fool's errand,” said author Carmen Maria Machado, in an Opinion Essay in the New York Times, and whose work currently faces book bans and challenges in America. “Ideas don't disappear when they're challenged; banned books have a funny way of enduring. But that doesn't mean these efforts are without consequences.”

In modern-day America, books that explore the lives of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, queer, or transgender characters, or are written by individuals from these communities, make up the bulk of the American Library Association's annual list of the most frequently censored books in libraries and schools. According to Machado, bans on books restrict access to valuable literature and hinder students from gaining a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

The Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah will host an evening with Carmen Maria Machado, author of "In the Dream House" and "Her Body and Other Parties," during PEN America’s Banned Books Week, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, 7 p.m in the UMFA Dumke Auditorium. A book signing hosted by Under the Umbrella Bookstore will follow with copies for purchase. The event is free and open to the public.

"Carmen Maria Machado's work stands in a long and distinguished line of American writers," said Hollis Robbins, dean of the College of Humanities. "From Edgar Allan Poe to Shirley Jackson to Ursula K. Le Guin to Samuel R. Delany, these writers along with Machado, have shaped and reshaped the contours of the short story to encompass fantasy, horror and the uncanny. We are delighted to welcome her to the College of Humanities."

Machado is celebrated for her distinctive narrative style and innovative storytelling. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Bard Fiction Prize winner, and the Lamba Literary Award for LBGTQ Nonfiction, among many others.

"Carmen Maria Machado is one of the most inventive, influential writers working today," said Jeremy Rosen, associate director for faculty. "Her work often plays with the gothic genre – that classic exploration of haunted castles – bending the genre in inventive ways to explore gender, sexuality, and intimate partner violence. What better form to address how labels that are supposed to house our identity and relationships that are supposed to feel like home can turn into prisons or chambers of horror? Her work pushes boundaries of literary form and taboo subject matter and challenges us to rethink what stories can do and what kind of stories we tell about our intimate lives. What better author to visit the University of Utah during Banned Books Week?" 

Her memoir, a collection of short stories, "In the Dream House," recounts a horrifying abusive relationship and her struggle to leave it. After being unable to find resources on same-sex domestic abuse, Machado hopes her memoir will help others not feel so alone and believes that now more than ever, literature matters.

About Carmen Maria Machado

Machado is an award-winning author and artist-in-residence, celebrated for her contributions to contemporary literature. Her works, which transcend traditional boundaries of genre, have earned critical acclaim and a devoted readership. She is best known for her memoir, "In the Dream House," and her genre-blurring short stories. Machado's writing delves into themes of LGBTQIA+ relationships, banned books, identity, and the craft of storytelling.


About The Tanner Humanities Center  

The Tanner Humanities Center advances humanities exploration and engagement through public outreach, academic research, and educational enrichment. The activities reflect a vision of the humanities as not only relevant, stimulating, and cutting-edge, but also essential for developing critical thinking, tolerance, and respect on campus and in the community.



Missy Weeks, Tanner Humanities Center |801-581-8879

Published September 20, 2023

Last Updated: 9/21/23