Bastard Out of Carolina

ISBN: 0525934251
ISBN 13: 9780525934257
By: Dorothy Allison

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About this book

/Allison/Dorothy In languid prose that beautifully evokes the rural South of the '60s and '70s, Allison tells the story of the Boatwright family, who refuse to be shamed by the label "poor white trash". Allison's keen eye and lyrical style throw into sharp relief the rages and sorrows of this bunch of drunks and thieves, making for an asto

Reader's Thoughts

Lee Davis

The only thing I've heard anyone sat about this book is, "Wow, parts are really hard to read," as if it's only a memoir of surviving domestic violence, not also work of literary genius that will make you believe in the power of fiction again. I guess writing candidly about domestic violence is still taboo (or, as some amateur reviewers on this website call it, "cliche"), no matter how much art you wrap it in. This book is still banned from libraries and school curricula. I don't think that many books should be required reading for everyone living on earth, but that's not a hyperbole. This book is important. Go read it right now.


I read Dorothy Allison's shorter, vignette-like work Two or Three Things I Know for Sure before this, her breakout novel. They tread many of the same themes, both being somewhat autobiographical. This one is somewhat fictionalized, that one invokes a meta-narrative that bridges the gap between growing up as Bone and becoming a feminist writer. Throughout "Two or Three Things" Allison interrupts the narrative with short words of wisdom that she "knows for sure". One sticks with me:“Two or three things I know for sure, and one is that I'd rather go naked than wear the coat the world has made for me.” The story of Bone in Bastard Out of Carolina is a tailor's pattern-cut and -hemmed dummy mock-up of the coat the world would have Allison wear. It is an angry, unapologetic, sometimes bitter but unresigning portrait of a girl treated like no person should be, among people who are no stranger to hardship themselves. They don't have much to begin with, and then she suffers even worse. Ultimately, it's a story that has been told in some manner before, and it is difficult for me to tell whether the repetition or the work itself made it less personally compelling. The strength of the writer's voice is unignorable, however. There are occasional moments of particular loveliness that she manages to capture among the slovenliness:"We lived on one porch or another all summer long, laughing at Little Earle, teasing the boys and picking over beans, listening to stories, or to the crickets beating out their own soft songs. When I think of that summer...I always feel safe again. No place has ever seemed so sweet and quiet, no place ever felt so much like home."We understand her feeling of alienation and unrootedness later. We see histories of mistreatment by men, of women in general. But the strength of these narratives come from the knowledge of what she lost, paralleling that descent from a form of paradise that many of us can relate to in one form or another.


I thought it was a good, well-written book w/ interesting characters. But, seriously, why are most "good books" such downers?

A.M. O'Malley

I just read this for the second time. When I was still at home, still under his roof. I saw the film adaptation of Bastard Out Of Carolina. We all did; my mother, him, the boys we watched it together in the living room. I laid on the floor in front of the TV and felt all the muscles in my body tense and a hot flush go through me as I watched the story of Bone , the bastard girl. Her mama married a man—after a hard life, he was her second chance—and then her mama stood by as that man hurt Bone. He terrorized her and told her she was nothing, hurt her over and over. That is me, that is me, that is me. I thought as I laid there, my tormentor, my step-father made derisive comments to the movie—I fantasized for the thousandth time standing up with power; 6 feet tall, armed, blazing. I imagined stabbing him in the heart, ripping him to shreds, tearing him into tiny pieces. I laid there and tried to block out his voice, tried to build an invisible wall between us. When Bone’s uncles find out how she’s been hurt they beat her step-daddy to a pulp—they but him in the hospital. I feel flushed and triumphant. I feel that justice like no other justice has ever been served.I was out of the house just a couple years, safe from him but filled with rage—not safe from myself—when I read the book by Dorothy Allison. This time, when the uncles beat Daddy-Glen I just felt sick jealousy. I have four uncles and they pretended that nothing was wrong. It was the book, page 300, near the end after Bone has been beaten and raped and her mama has left her to be with Daddy-Glen that I read the words that have been the only explanation that could ever come close. “Bone, no woman can stand to choose between her child and her husband.” That was it, that was all I had besides when my own mama said “Do you want me to die alone” after she had finally been forced to face the facts, after I had run away, attempted suicide, been hospitalized, after I had been terrorized by my own step-father for six years, after I had begged and cried and raged to be saved.I met Dorothy Allison many years later, I waited in line while she signed books and flirted with people. My guts were all jumbled up, I was in line with a friend and I could hardly hold a conversation with her—my eyes were just on Dorothy. I needed so badly to somehow let her know that that line on page 300 of B.O.O.C. was all I’d had for years as any sort of reason why I’d been left out to be hurt, why my mama hadn’t done anything. I got close, I held out my book with shaky hands, I fumbled my words—told her how much her work meant to me, how it had changed my life. The words felt weak and pale and I wished I’d had the money to be taught by her, that I hadn’t just snuck in to see her read. What I really wanted was to sit with her awhile and find out if she’s ever made peace with her mama. If she’d ever lost that sour stinging feeling in her gut when she thought about what had happened.


Conpletely depressing story about Bone, a young girl growing up in a small Southern town, Born out of wedlock, achingly poor, ashamed of her extended family, and full of self loathing, Bone also endures horrific abuse at the hands of her step father while her mother turns away. I appreciated the pov, and the author did a good job painting both the setting and the mindset of Bone. However, there were too many characters and the plot got too fragmented sometimes. Also, although this story is powerfully written, the premise of white trash Southerners drinking too much and abusing their children is a little overdone and cliche'd.


Don't waste your time on authors who put their therapy on a shelf. It's a sad, depressing story that inspires rage in anyone who reads it; however, at some point I stopped feeling terrible for this girl and started berating her (or the author... it really is autobiographical). No one spends nearly a decade being sexually abused and still questions whether or not what is happening to them is abuse. But that is only the plot (and one small element of the plot that doesn't make sense), the style of the writing itself has problems as well.Ultimately, this is a tale centering on a family ("white trash", and just because the writer claims it from the beginning doesn't mean I disagreed by the end) with definite co-dependence issues. The women are all taken advantage of and it seems there is nothing that will wake up the men to their unhappiness, and there is nothing that could be done to the women that would make them leave a husband (as is horrifically apparent with the conclusion). Furthermore, with the climax occurring inside the conclusion there should have been some kind of deeply resounding resolution to the girl's/woman's abuse and perspective about human relationships, but I really didn't see that happen. Instead, I saw a clear picture of this girl going on to become another Boatwright woman--taken advantage of and unwilling to do anything about it.


'I had wanted to laugh at everyone, Raylene and the nurses, all of them watching me like some fragile piece of glass, ready to shatter around boiling water. I was boiling inside. I was cooking away. I was who I was going to be, and she was a terrible person.'A word of warning right from the start if you are sensitive to physical, sexual and mental abuse than this book may be one you will wan't to avoid. Narrated by Ruth Anne 'Bone' Boatwright, this a harrowing story of a dysfunctional but loving Southern American family that will find itself torn apart when Ruth's Mother falls for a monster of a man called Glen Waddell. Bone who does not know her real father, has a really big family with the women who tell the most amazing stories while the men although having there faults such as being heavy drinkers are lovable rogues who just adore Bone. In a way the story far from a coming of age story is a tribute to her large cracker family.Bone's mother means the world to her and she wan't to do everything to make her happy so when a new man comes into the family home things seem good with Glen being a loving person who want's to be a husband and a father. But after the marriage things will change as his abusive side shows through in scenes that are truly heart wrenching and will have a terrible effect on Bone as her happy childhood is replaced by fear and anger. Slowly Glen will drive the family apart as they move away from the ones they love and despite the family suspicions of Glen, Bone will not tell the truth as negativity overcomes her. The even-handed description of the dynamics that permit the outrages to be denied, and so continued, is what puts the novel into a class of its own.I will be honest and say i have never read a book were i was so much in dread of turning the page thanks to the sheer honesty of the prose that pulls no punches in describing what it can be like for a family in crisis. I felt at times helpless and wanted to put myself between Bone and Glen to protect her. I also hated the mother with a passion, especially at the end when she will show her true colours. Despite the grimness of it all i was left with great hope for Bone thanks to the wonderful narration as confusion moves to clarity. This is undoubtedly an important book that would be a great comfort not only for people who are going through similar experiences but is true eye opener for anyone who reads it. This is a book that just needs to be read, it is that simple and is easily one of the best books i have read this year.


A contemporary classic, this powerful novel is a disturbing tale of child abuse, told with wisdom and restraint. Allison brilliantly tells the story through the first-person narrative of Bone, a young girl who doesn’t want to believe what’s happening to her, so for the most part she reveals the truth sparingly—which makes the more dramatic moments that much more terrifying. Allison deftly captures the psychological nuances of the situation at the same time, making clear to the reader some things the innocent narrator probably doesn’t comprehend. One stunning moment that exemplifies this point comes when the mother, frustrated by her husband’s inability to bring home enough money to feed the kids, tarts herself up, goes out, and returns later with a boatload of groceries. The reader instantly knows what’s going on, but Bone seems to remain uncertain. Throughout, the writing is beautiful—convincingly in Bone’s voice, but touched by poetry (and thankfully unblemished by dialect). The ending is heartbreaking, as we see that the scars of abuse are not only physical; it is emotional betrayal that has the longest-lasting effects. Closing this amazing book, one wonders how any of us survive childhood at all.

Dusty Myers

One thing I know for sure is that Bastard out of Carolina is, in the end, a very conservative book. Its focus is on the family. Ruth Anne Boatwright is a girl born the titular bastard to a teenage mother, Annie, and an absent father. The mother remarries after she has another kid with a man who dies, and this man she marries—Daddy Glen—turns out in what has now become a cliche in the memoir/autobionovel genre to be abusive. First it's verbal/emotional, then it becomes physical/sexual. All the while, Annie turns a blind eye, or sees what's going on and gets really upset but then goes crawling back to Daddy Glen because she can't stand to be alone. The novel ends with this reconciliation between daughter and mother than rang, to me, completely false and sentimental. "You're my own baby girl," Annie says. "I'm not gonna let you go." And the line is so clearly another lie, yet Ruth Anne does everything in her narration to assert that this time she believed it, and therefore we should.Another problem I had with the book was its point of view. I don't remember what the problem was, exactly, just that a problem was had. I think it had something to do with the fact that for much of the book Ruth Anne doesn't do anything but watch her colorful family members yell and lie at one another. And then this combined with the book's insistence that we never question Ruth Anne's perspective on herself and the events of her narrative. It's like this depressing by-product of the Victim Narrative That Resists At All Costs Being Labeled A Victim Narrative. I fully submit that this is a matter of personal taste, not one of literary ideals or whatever.Like, I like my first-person narrated novels to be a bit more aware of the inherent unreliability of every first-person narrator ever. Bad memoirs are completely ignorant of this. "I" am witness, they say. "I" will tell you what you need to know. Novels, though, usually know better. Or, at least, they should.


Lucinda Williams was the soundtrack for this one. It was swallowed quickly, almost lapped. I felt possessed at times, perhaps sensing some reflections towards my own upbringing. I found the ending elgaic.

Larry Bassett

”Oh, but that’s why I got to cut his throat,” she said plainly. “If I didn’t love the son of a bitch, I’d let him live forever.” This statement written by Dorothy Allison in Bastard Out of Carolina and spoken by Alma is often quoted in reviews. Words in the Boatwright family are not always logical and rarely without passion. By the time you read this book you will have had enough experience with the large dysfunctional family to know that. I remembered Aunt Alma’s direct look this afternoon when she’d talked about loving Wade, about wanting to kill him. I didn’t understand that kind of love. I didn’t understand anything. A twelve year old shouldn’t have to understand that, let alone feel it herself. She would have to be an excellent example of growing up too young, a Boatwright family specialty.Before I started reading Bastard Out of Carolina, I found the 1996 movie streaming online and watched it. (If you go to , you will find where you can watch the movie for free.) Immediately after I watched the movie, I was not sure I wanted to read the book! The movie had some horrific, violent scenes and I thought the book might go into these scenes in more detail. I was quivering from the movie so I took a break. I wondered how the actors in the movie, especially the young ones, managed to maintain their mental health portraying events that I had trouble even watching. As I often find for myself, the images on the screen were more intense than the words in the book. In a book I am sometimes shielded from the content by my admiration of the writing, of the choice of words. The film is more vivid and in my face, pummeling me.I was a child protective services (CPS) worker in the mid 1970s dealing with child abuse and neglect. These societal concerns were receiving increased public attention and academic study at that time and CPS was just coming to term and being born. The Battered Child Syndrome certainly applies to Bone, the girl child we watch grow up in an abusive home in Bastard Out of Carolina. This book is a lesson in traditional old time, country living. The story is told by the girl, Bone. They did what they could. The sisters sent Mama a wedding present, a love knot Marvella had made using some of her own hair, after Maybelle had cut little notches in their rabbits’ ears under a new moon, adding the blood to the knot. She set the rabbits loose, and then the two of them tore up half a dozen rows of their beans and buried honeycomb in a piece of lace tablecloth where the beans had flourished. The note with the love knot told Mama that she should keep it under the mattress of the new bed that Glen had bought, but Mama sniffed the blood and dried hair, and shook her head over the thing. She couldn’t quite bring herself to throw it away, but she put it in one of her flower pots out in the utility room where Glen wouldn’t find it stinking up their house. The Boatwright family is hard living, hard drinking, fighting; Bone is proud to be a part of it: We’re smart, I thought. We’re smarter than you think we are. I felt mean and powerful and proud of all of us, all the Boatwrights who had ever gone to jail, fought back when they hadn’t a chance, and still held on to their pride. Bone suffers abuse that is graphically portrayed: emotional, physical, sexual: “Nobody wants me to have nothing nice,” he’d complain, and then get in one of his dangerously quiet moods and refuse to talk to anyone. He brooded so much that Reese and I patrolled the yard, picking up windblown trash and do turds – anything that would make him mad. Every new house made him happy for a little while, and we tried to extend that period of relative calm as much as possible, keeping everything clean and neat.. . .His left hand reached for me, caught my shoulder, pulled me over his left leg. He flipped my skirt up over my head and jammed it into that hand. I heard the sound of the belt swinging up, a song in the air, a high-pitched terrible sound. It hit me and I screamed. Daddy Glen swung his belt again. I screamed at its passage through the air, screamed before it hit me,. I screamed for Mama. He was screaming with me, his great hoarse shouts as loud as my high thin squeals, and behind us outside the locked door, Reese was screaming too, and then Mama. All of us were screaming, and no one could help.. . .He never said, “Don’t tell your Mama.” He never had to say it. I did not know how to tell anyone what I felt, what scared me and shamed me and still made me stand, unmoving and desperate, while he rubbed against me and ground his face into my neck. I could not tell Mama. I would not have known how to explain why I stood there and let him touch me. It wasn’t sex, not like a man and a woman pushing their naked bodies into each other, but then, it was something like sex, something powerful and frightening that he wanted badly and I did not understand at all. Worse, when Daddy Glen held me that way, it was the only time his hands were gentle, and when he let me go, I would rock on uncertain feet. . . .Two weeks later we were back home with Daddy Glen. Nothing had changed. Everything had changed. Daddy Glen had said he was sorry, begged, wept, and swore never to hurt me again. I had stood silent, stubborn, and numb. This is the story of abuse everywhere. But not too many people can write about it like Dorothy Allison has. And you ask what was happening to Bone’s younger sister, Reese? Very often there is a special child who is the object of all of the abuse while others are untouched. Bone was that special child in her family. The emotional damage done to Reese is undoubtedly severe even though she was spared the physical and sexual abuse. Child abuse has a strong blame-the-victim component. Daddy Glen would beat Bone and her mother asked, “What did you do to make him do that?”Allison explains her writing about abuse:The need to make my world believable to people who have never experienced it is part of why I write fiction. I know that some things must be felt to be understood, that despair, for example, can never be adequately analyzed; it must be lived. But if I can write a story that so draws the reader in that she imagines herself like my characters, feels their sense of fear and uncertainty, their hopes and terrors, then I have come closer to knowing myself as real, important as the very people I have always watched with awe.. . .By the time I taught myself the basics of storytelling on the page, I knew there was only one story that would haunt me until I understood how to tell it—the complicated, painful story of how my mama had, and had not, saved me as a girl. Writing Bastard Out of Carolina became, ultimately, the way to claim my family's pride and tragedy, and the embattled sexuality I had fashioned on a base of violence and abuse.Source: the online essay from which those paragraphs are taken, will tell you much about Dorothy Allison and her writing. The phrase ‘semi-autobiographical’ will become clear to the reader.It hurt to read parts of this book. Bone’s reaction to being abused is so typical and so distressing. “It was my fault, all my fault. I had ruined everything.” But there were also some good parts. It made me remember being a child and playing with a gang of kids in my neighborhood. It reminded me of the strength within a family, even within a troubled family.The Boatwright clan of Greenville County, South Carolina has to be your stereotype of an extended family with boatloads of hate and more boatloads of love. To call them a dysfunctional family is too neat and tidy a summary. Their interactions with anyone outside the family are limited, at least according to Bastard Out of Carolina. Lots of parents and grandparents and sisters and brothers and in-laws and nieces and nephews and cousins populate this book. The outsiders are medical people we meet at the hospital when the Boatwrights hurt each other enough, a nearby family with an albino daughter who vie for an oddity award, the law for when a Boatwright gets involved in something illegal (common but still the family tries to deal with its own infractions), the people in the diner where Mama often works. There is a family album with the newspaper articles about the family – mostly things that you might not think people would be proud of. The newspaper photo of the pick-up truck that a drunk Earle drove through a barber shop window is a good example.There are still real Boatwrights in a real Greenville County, SC. The book will tell you, of course, that this is a book for fiction and any resemblance is coincidental! I don’t know how exactly how that works when a book is acknowledged to be semi-autobiographical.(view spoiler)[ One of the most difficult questions left unresolved is Bone’s relationship with her mother who chose abuser Daddy Glen over abused daughter Bone. That choice is made shortly after the mother observes her husband raping and beating her twelve year old daughter on the living room floor of a sister’s house. This is the sister who loved her husband so much that she wanted to cut his throat with a razor. The implication is that Bone forgives her mother although the mother and step-father move away from the area and Raylene, the gay aunt, says her mother will never forgive herself. Raylene knows this from her personal experience of having a lesbian partner choose her baby over Raylene. This is divulged at the conclusion of the book. Nothing should be a surprise since Raylene is, above all, a Boatwright. If Bone is Dorothy Allison, the psychiatric bills must be immense. But she did become a pretty good writer – at what cost, I ask. The book is dedicated to Ms. Allison’s mother, so I guess there must have been some reconciliation at least mentally. (hide spoiler)]You get to know Bone and her family real well. You feel yourself right there in the midst of their craziness. As a result of my child protective service experience several years after I got out of college, I am very sensitive to what Dorothy Allison writes. She is a remarkably courageous person to expose herself as she has. Even after all these years, I came face to face with the stress that made me transfer out of that CPS job after two years. This is a very well written book even beyond its confrontation with the horrors of child abuse. You want to be more positive but the conclusion hammers home the damage done by the events, however fictional, in the book. Finally, Bone says, “I was who I was going to be, someone like her, like Mama, a Boatwright woman.” This conclusion seems sad yet realistic. You just want to give her a hug. And that is what Raylene does. Yikes! Five stars.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Ginny Messina

On her web site Dorothy Allison says "What I am here for is to tell you stories you may not want to hear." Bastard Out of Carolina is definitely a hard story to hear. It is a beautifully-written semi-autobiographical account of a childhood in 1950s-60s South Carolina. The protagonist, nicknamed Bone, is a victim of poverty and physical abuse, including sexual abuse. But she is also part of a big extended family, all of whom are poor, uneducated, loving, and protective. Allison lived this story and knew these people, which is why she is able to write about them so convincingly. Bone's mother is a complex and interesting character who either chooses not to protect her child or is unable to do so because she perceives her choices to be so limited. Allison probably believes the latter—-she dedicated this book to the memory of her own mother. But either way, she seems to have an admirable capacity for forgiveness. As wonderful as this book is, it did lag a bit for me at parts, which is why I gave it 4 stars rather than 5. It's still an amazing book!

Jeffrey Keeten

”He pinned me between his hip and the sink, lifting me slightly and bending me over. I reached out and caught hold of the porcelain, trying not to grab at him, not to touch him. No. No. No. He was raging, spitting, the blows hitting the wall as often as they hit me. Beyond the door, Mama was screaming. Daddy Glen was grunting. I hate him. I hated him. The belt went up and came down. Fire along my thighs. Pain. I would not scream. I would not, would not, would not scream.” Bone played by Jena Malone in the movie adaptation.There was confusion when Ruth Anne “Bone” Boatwright was born. Her Mama, a fifteen year old girl without a husband, was recovering from a car wreck and from giving birth when the people with the paperwork came around. Bone’s Aunts tried to answer the questions, but because they could not remember exactly the name of the fellow who was the sperm donor the paperwork went through as UNKNOWN FATHER and Bone’s birth certificate is stamped in big red letters at the bottom. ILLEGITIMATE. Her mother tries for years to get that red stain removed from the birth certificate, but the people at the courthouse take too much malicious, petty joy out of continuing to issue each new birth certificate with the same damning stamp.The Boatwright clan is a force of nature. The men are hard working, hard hitting, binge drinking, thieving, skirt chasing,and fast driving dervishes of fire and passion who when not fighting each other are fighting the world.They are intensely loyal, to a fault, to their friends and family. The Boatwright women name their daughters after their sisters. They name their sons after their brothers. They demand respect and get it. When Aunt Alma gets into a conflict with her husband she makes if very clear how she sees things. ”Oh, but that’s why I got to cut his throat,” she said plainly. “If I didn’t love the son of a bitch, I’d let him live forever.”Family get togethers are intensely emotional and always on the verge of song or violence. Uncle Earle is Bone’s favorite uncle. He is popular with the whole family brimming with charisma. He is the one guy everybody wants to see when they are troubled. Uncle Earle played by Michael Rooker in the movie adaptation. ”Uncle Earle was my favorite of all my uncles. He was known as Black Earle for three counties around. Mama said he was called Black Earle for that black black hair that fell over his eyes in a great soft curl, but Aunt Raylene said it was for his black black heart. He was a good-looking man, soft-spoken and hardworking. He told Mama that all the girls loved him because he looked like Elvis Presley, only skinny and with muscles. In a way he did, but his face was etched with lines and sunburned a deep red-brown. The truth was he had none of the Elvis Presley’s baby-faced innocence; he had a devilish look and a body Aunt Alma swore was made for sex. He was a big man, long and lanky, with wide hands marked with scars. ‘Earle looks like trouble coming in on greased skids.’” Now Bone’s Mama is married to one young man just long enough to get pregnant with Bone’s sister Reese. He died under unusual circumstances clearing the way for Glen Waddell. Glen comes from a good family, a family that owns their houses and goes into professions like lawyering and doctoring. Now Bone’s mother Anney is a beauty, fine boned and graceful, but compared to the type of women that a Waddell is expected to marry she is trash. Glen has never lived up to his father’s expectations and marrying Anney just confirms for their family that he is never going to amount to anything. He gets in fights. He intensely loves Anney; and yet ,can’t hardly stand to be in the same room with Ruth Anne without finding some “bone of contention”. ”I looked at his hands. No he never meant to hurt me, not really, I told myself, but more and more those hands seemed to move before he could think. His hands were big, impersonal, and fast. I could not avoid them. Reese and I made jokes about them when he wasn’t around--gorilla hands, monkey paws, paddlefish, beaver tails. My dreams were full of long fingers, hands that reached around doorframes and crept over the edge of the mattress, fear in me like a river, like the ice-dark blue of his eyes.” Daddy Glen, as he insists on being called, swears he loves Bone, but when he is not beating her he is pulling her against him; rubbing her up and down his body; his hands inside her clothes. His mind is twisted with hate and unnatural desire a lethal combination that kills love. Even though she can’t carry a tune, Bone wants to be a gospel singer. She loves the music, but what she really loves about religion is Revelations. It stokes the rage in her heart and gives her hope that everyone will get what’s coming to them. ”I sang along with the music and prayed for all I was worth. Jesus’ blood and country music, there had to be something else, something more to hope for. I bit my lip and went back to reading the Book of Revelation, taking comfort in the hope of the apocalypse, God’s retribution on the wicked. I liked Revelations, loved the Whore of Babylon and the promised rivers of blood and fire. It struck me like gospel music, it promised vindication.”Bone loves her Mama so completely that she made me want to love her too. I just couldn’t forgive her. Sometimes when we are faced with something so horrible our brain chooses not to process that information. Anney knew, but didn’t want to know. Anney not only let Bone down, she let us all down. I know we can’t help who we fall in love with, but you have to love your children more. In the beginning, children are the best of us ,and how we protect them and nurture them will determine whether they continue to represent us to the world as better versions of ourselves or shattered adaptations of the worst of us. Dorothy AllisonThe plot is predictable, no deviations from a script that has been played before. Despite that I bumped it to four stars for the lovely descriptions of the Boatwright family. I felt that Allison has that Southern gift for language that soars especially well when she is describing people. The Boatwright’s are a family I’d be proud to be a part of and a family I’d work like crazy to get far, far away from.


i have no idea why this book gets so much love. the writing is mediocre, the story construction weak-linked, the point fudged by so much nonsense, it's blurry and romanticized and wrapped in cheap tin foil and smelling of county fair cotton candy. and the mistique of class: i like it just as much as i like the mistique of ethnicity, i.e. not at all.


Bastard Out of Carolina: A Reader's Personal Reflection “People pay for that they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And the pay for it simply: by the lives they lead. - James Baldwin” --From the epigraph to the novel. "No one knows what goes on behind closed doors." It is hard to swallow, hard to believe, stories such as the one told by Dorothy Allison. The world would be a much prettier and more pleasant place if we did not have to believe things of the nature related by young Ruth Anne Boatwright, known to her family as Bone.But this I know is true. These things have always happened. They have happened from time immemorial. I do not believe that it was the idea of Lot's daughters to lie with their father in his drunkenness. Rather, when a man's wife is a pillar of salt, he has needs which must be met elsewhere.In the basement of the Monroeville, Alabama, County Courthouse, the old Courthouse, are the records dating back to its construction. I visited there. I asked permission to examine the records. At the turn of the Twentieth Century, I found cases of incest and carnal knowledge of a child under the age of twelve in the huge red leather bound docket books, the parties long dead.I was an Assistant District Attorney for twenty-eight years. In the mid-1980s, with the breaking news of child abuse cases occurring across the United States, I was assigned to handle those cases. Actually, I volunteered for it. I had no idea of the world I was about to enter.The Judicial system was ill equipped to answer the problem of child abuse cases. Juries were uncomfortable with the facts that poured out like a stream of sewage. It was a world of children with knowledge for which they should have no basis. Abusers who should have been protectors. Mothers who should have been the first to protect their child from the man in their lives. But the abusers were abusers and the mothers were not supportive of their children.I was the Courthouse Santa Claus. I had the ability to talk with children. I was willing to work with social workers who were more like police officers and police officers who could have been mistaken for social workers. It was the beginning of a multi-disciplinary approach to handling child abuse cases. We learned as we went. Child by child.Through the years, I became known as Mr. Mike to the children whose cases I took to court. The name stuck with social workers and police officers. I developed a reputation of winning those cases. And I was called the meanest man who ever stepped into a courtroom when I was able to carve a Daddy Glenn into little pieces on cross-examination. The television cameras were often there for the verdict. The crime beat reporter was there. I was asked how I handled the cases without them getting to me. Naturally, I lied. My response was they did not. If I allowed the cases to get to me, I would not be an effective advocate for any child. I imagine my lies were fairly transparent, as I sometimes bared my emotions uncontrollably in summation. I could only say there are some things that should make a grown man cry.The truth is, keeping the lid on your emotions takes a tremendous toll. These were the cases you did take home with you at night. These are the children whose faces I can still see, whose voices I can still hear to this day. And there are the eyes of the dead, the glazed eyes in little bodies on steel gurneys in emergency rooms, on whose faces I still imagine I see, sometimes surprise, sometimes resignation.Often I wondered how those children who lived might have grown up. What they would have said. What lives they would have lead. I read Bastard Out of Carolina when it was first published in 1992. Dorothy Allison became the voice I had been looking for. It helped me understand better the Bones of this world, the Anneys, and the Daddy Glenns. In a way this book became an unholy bible for me in the preparation of cases.Understand, I did not set out to write about myself, although it may appear otherwise. I wrote this as I did to encourage anyone who has not read this book to do so. I wrote this for anyone who has read it, as a speaker for children, that what you have read in the pages of Dorothy Allison's book is true.I write this in appreciation for the courage required and the emotional toll taken by Dorothy Allison to tell this story.Finally, this is for all the Ruth Ann Boatwrights in the world. There are so many of you. I know that you are not trash. I know that you are not all poor. I know some of you make yourselves unattractive in the hope you will be left alone. I know some of you will run away from home. I know that some of you will excell in school and some of you will not. But most important, whatever has happened to you, it was not your fault. And I write this in the hope that one day you will believe this even if you do not today. Know this is true. There is always someone there to listen.And for all the Daddy Glenns out there? It's not the 1950s anymore. Somebody's gonna get you, sooner or later.For those who are looking for a more traditional review, I heartily recommend those of Jeff Keeten at and Larry Bassett found at .

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