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Summer Tales 2021

Summer Tales is a virtual community for students taking classes remotely. It promises short mental breaks from coursework through reading and social interaction, two fool-proof methods of distraction.

Why Should You Read This Story?

Carmen Maria Machado spins a slightly surreal, quietly affecting tale of a woman’s bariatric surgery, exploring the connections between food, family, femininity, and body image.

The Short Story: Eight Bites, by Carmen Maria Machado

 

"I am a new woman. A new woman becomes best friends with her daughter. A new woman laughs with all of her teeth. A new woman does not just slough off her old self; she tosses it aside with force."

Excerpt from Eight Bites, by Carmen Maria Machado  

 

SYNOPSIS

In Eight Bites, Carmen Maria Machado goes inside the mind of a woman who undergoes bariatric weight loss surgery. It's often said that food is family, and the relationship of Machado's narrator to food and her own body is refracted through her relationships with the women of her family: an iron-willed mother, gossipy sisters, and a concerned daughter. Weaving realistic storytelling with a surrealist twist, Machado explores the complicated feelings around a simple clinical procedure: desire, shame, love, envy, and a sense of having "lost" something more than merely weight.

Quote Related to the Story

If you’re Latinx, you’ve probably had a relative challenge your weight: ¿Por qué estás tan gorda/gordo? Estás engordando. “Eight Bites” hits home, rehashing the pressures too many Latinxs reproduce onto each other, especially family. Weight expectations can haunt you, forcing you to militarize your desire to lose, to sculpt, to gym, to achieve “normal.” From this comes the mentality expressed by our narrator: “I could not make eight bites work for my body and so I would make my body work for eight bites.”

Kelly, C. (2020). Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado (review).
Chiricú, 4(2), 202–204.

Talking Points - Reflection Pool

  1. Think about the mother-daughter relationships in this story. How does the narrator’s mother shape the narrator’s attitudes and choices?  Why does the narrator’s daughter react so strongly against the surgery?
  2. Where do we see pleasure in this story? Where do we see shame?  How can we tell?
  3. What do you make of the three sisters’ responses to the narrator’s question about feeling a presence in the house after the surgery? Why does Machado write these lines that most people wouldn’t say in everyday life as “dialogue”?
  4. What do you think the “thing” is that appears late in the story? What is the narrator’s relationship to it? Why is it described in the way that it is?

About the Author

Carmen Maria Machado (born 1986) is an American short story author, essayist, and critic frequently published in The New Yorker, Granta, Lightspeed, and other publications. She has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novelette. Her stories have been reprinted in Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best Horror of the Year, The New Voices of Fantasy, and Best Women's Erotica. Her story collection Her Body and Other Parties was published in 2017. Her memoir In the Dream House was published in 2019. More... (Wikipedia)

Carmen Maria Machado at Rutgers Libraries

The Writer on Writing - Interviews with Carmen Maria Machado

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