Bastard Out of Carolina

By Dorothy Allison

Original Publisher: Dutton

Current Publisher: Plume

Tiphanie Yanique writes: 

Bastard. It was one of those words that I spit around when I was a kid and it would make the adults recoil. I’m a bastard, I’d tell people. And they’d say, don’t say that. That’s not nice. And I’d say but it’s true. It’s me. Maybe I’m not nice.

There was a boy in line behind me at school, his mother was the religion teacher, and there he was chanting into my hair, you don’t have a mother or a father. I do have a mother, I said. Because I did. I didn’t have a father, but I didn’t quite understand their use anyway. Even on TV they seemed absent, except for when they were teaching their boy children how to fish or play ball. At best they seemed meddlesome with their girl children.

But the world didn’t agree with me, just like the damn court house in Bastard Out of Carolina. Poor Bone, the girl of the book, could have done without a daddy. But no one else seemed to think so and there was the repeating stamp on her birth certificate to prove them right. To be poor and without a daddy means you’re really poor. It might have been expected that, as a reader, I’d identify with the black kids living downstairs of Bone's family. But how could I? I related most to the white trash of Bone and her Boatwrights. I understood all those strong women loving their children so destructively. I read this book and wondered how this author I could never have met had figured it all out. The it being this:

“We had all wanted the simplest thing, to love and be loved and be safe together…”

This Dorothy Allison is a bitch of a writer. Riding us like a broom and never letting us loose. I wonder if we ever learn to love it nice. 

Tiphanie Yanique is the author of How to Escape from a Leper Colony, published by Graywolf PressHer writing has won the 2011 BOCAS Prize for Caribbean Fiction, Boston Review Prize in Fiction, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, a Fulbright Scholarship and an Academy of American Poet's Prize. She has been listed by the Boston Globe as one of the sixteen cultural figures to watch out for and by the National Book Foundation as one of the 2010 5 Under 35. Her writing has been published in Best African American Fiction, The Wall Street Journal, American Short Fiction, and other places. Tiphanie is from the Virgin Islands and is a professor in the MFA program at the New School in New York City. (Photo: Moses Djeli)

Fiction Finalists That Year:

Fiction Winner That Year: Cormac McCarthy for All the Pretty Horses

Fiction Judges That Year: Leonard Michaels, Toni Cade Bambara, Philip Caputo, John Leonard, Joy Williams

The Year in Literature:

  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
  • Derek Walcott won the Nobel Prize for literature.

More Information:

  • Bastard Out of Carolina was made into a 1996 film for Showtime directed by Anjelica Huston and starring Jena Malone.
  • Allison was a National Book Award Fiction Judge in 1999, the year that Ha Jin won the Award for Waiting

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