Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

The modern literary classic that has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye

"As close to flawless as any reader could ask for."
-The New York Times Book Review

The publication of Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina was a landmark event. The novel's profound portrait of family dynamics in the rural South won the author a National ...

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Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel

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Overview

The modern literary classic that has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye

"As close to flawless as any reader could ask for."
-The New York Times Book Review

The publication of Dorothy Allison's Bastard Out of Carolina was a landmark event. The novel's profound portrait of family dynamics in the rural South won the author a National Book Award nomination and launched her into the literary spotlight. Critics have likened Allison to William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, and Harper Lee, naming her the first writer of her generation to dramatize the lives and language of poor whites in the South. Since its appearance, the novel has inspired an award-winning film and has been banned from libraries and classrooms, championed by fans, and defended by critics.

Greenville County, South Carolina, is a wild, lush place that is home to the Boatwright family-a tight-knit clan of rough-hewn, hard- drinking men who shoot up each other's trucks, and indomitable women who get married young and age too quickly. At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a mercilessly keen perspective. When her stepfather Daddy Glen, "cold as death, mean as a snake," becomes increasingly more vicious toward her, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that tests the loyalty of her mother, Anney-and leads to a final, harrowing encounter from which there can be no turning back.

Now available in a twentieth anniversary keepsake edition with a new afterword by the author.

 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"As close to flawless as any reader could ask for and any writer could hope for and aspire to ... The living language Allison has created is as exact and innovative as the language of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye . . . Simply stunning." 
-The New York Times Book Review

"A hell of a writer - tough and loose, clear and compassionate."
-The Village Voice

"Compulsively readable . . . Allison can make an ordinary moment transcendent with her sensuous mix of kitchen-sink realism and down-home drawl."
-San Francisco Chronicle

"Tough, plainspoken, and thoroughly unsentimental."
-Los Angeles Times Book Review

"This book will resonate within you like a gospel choir."
-Barbara Kingsolver

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781101007174
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/6/2005
  • Series: CONTEMPORARY FICTION, PLUME
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 59,241
  • File size: 647 KB

Meet the Author


Dorothy Allison is the acclaimed author of the nationally bestselling novel Bastard Out of Carolina, which was a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. She is also the author of the short story collection Trash and the bestselling novel Cavedweller, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. The recipient of numerous awards, she lives in Northern California.
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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

The Village Voice has called her "a hell of a writer-tough and loose, clear and compassionate." George Garrett, author and critic who reviewed Bastard Out of Carolina for The New York Times Book Review wanted to "blow a bugle to alert the reading public that a major new talent has arrived." Critics have likened her to William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Harper Lee, naming her the first writer of her generation to dramatize the lives and language of poor whites in the South. "She has an all-encompassing knowledge of what it's like to be the other, the outsider," says Studs Terkel. Garrett agrees: "It's as if the people in Dorothea Lange photographs, in the work of Margaret Bourke-White and Walker Evans, were able to speak." But with a dead-center look that says "Don't mess with me, honey. I'm liable to pour gravy on you," Allison defies easy characterization, as one writer for The New York Times put it. And she likes it that way.

Part gospel singer, part country preacher, Allison often jokes that as a girl she wanted to be Janis Joplin. She has a wardrobe full of rhinestone-studded leather jackets and a desk drawer full of family snapshots. She's a mean shot with a rifle, and her language is always dead-on: lush, beautiful, and brutal. "Dorothy sees everything", says Jewelle Gomez, the poet and novelist. Allison has spent her entire life telling forbidden stories, pulling her best fiction out from the edge of terror and the courage to heal. In Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, a short memoir she published in 1995, Allison writes:

"Where I was born—Greenville, South Carolina—smelled like nowhere else I've been. Cut wet grass, split green apples, baby shit and beer bottles, cheap makeup and motor oil. Everything was ripe, everything was rotting. Hound dogs butted my calves. People shouted in the distance; crickets boomed in my ears. That country was beautiful, I swear to you, the most beautiful place I've ever been. Beautiful and terrible."

Allison wants the hard and terrible stories, she demands them from herself. And her readers wait for them.

This autobiographical novel about a young girl in the rural South facing abuse and betrayal won high critical acclaim and a National Book Award nomination upon its release in 1992. The power of Bastard Out of Carolina is simultaneously narrative, emotional, and political. "The novel is mean," Allison says, "meant to rip off all that facade of imagination and lies we place around sexual violence and children."

The backdrop of this tale is Greenville, South Carolina, and its narrator is "Bone" Boatwright, a twelve year old trying to remember and comprehend the events that led to her being abandoned by her mother. Bone and her sister Reese are surrounded by colorful characters, most of them relations. Her uncles are feared by men and adored by women, while her aunts are long-suffering yet defiant. Her grandmother is a strict matriarch who loves her brood but "always loved her boy children more." While Anney Boatwright and her two girls face many trials —Bone's illegitimacy, the death of Reese's father —their real trouble starts when Anney marries Glenn Waddell, the black sheep of a prominent family, whose most outstanding characteristics are his uncontrollable temper and oversized hands. Though Daddy Glenn at first offers the girls sugary reassurances, when Anney miscarries his child he turns against them. Instead of lashing out at his wife, Glenn chooses the weakest target, Bone, and tears the family apart by claiming to need Anney's love and care more than her own young daughters do. Even as Bone suffers immense hardship, she is not alone. Fierce determination and a loving extended family help her through, and though our heartsache to think of what Bone must bear, her perseverance leaves us hope for her future.

Allison says she designed the book so that the reader meets all these people —Bone, Anney, and Glenn, the wild uncles and long-suffering aunts —and becomes gradually drawn into their world through the character of Bone. "You see what happens —Daddy Glen's cruelty, the sexual violence —only through the filter of Bone trying to survive. It took me a long time to get it right. About 10 years."

The Showtime movie based on the book, directed by Anjelica Huston and starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, was funded by Ted Turner, but he pronounced it too graphic to be shown on his network. In several states, Bastard has been banned from classrooms and school libraries. Most recently, the book was distributed to Maine high-schoolers by private citizens, in protest of the Maine Supreme Court's November 1997 decision that allowed the schools to continue their ban of the book.

ABOUT DOROTHY ALLISON

Dorothy Allison was born in 1949 in Greenville, South Carolina, to a fourteen-year-old unwed mother. The only father figure she ever knew was a violently abusive man who used her mother's desperate desire for respectability to tie the terrified family to him. Though it was Allison's mother who placed her daughter in these precarious situations by not challenging her husband, Allison credits her as an inspiration. While the Greenville community disdained Allison for being poor and illegitimate, Allison's mother insisted her child was bright. She kept a jar of money she called the college fund, and though she had to empty it on several occasions and Allison's college was paid for by a National Merit Scholarship, just the presence of that jar convinced Allison that she had a right to excel.

The first of her family to graduate high school, Allison went on to get a bachelor's degree from Florida Presbyterian College and a master's from New York's School of Social Research. Allison credits emerging feminism with much of her redemption. Suddenly, getting angry did not make her a misfit, and the movement gave her the strength to reclaim her self from years of put downs and abuse.

When she began her writing career, Allison kept close to the gay and feminist presses, distrusting the establishment and believing that "literature was written by men, judged by men." In 1988 Firebrand Press published Trash, a book of short stories, that started to win Allison notice. This was followed by The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990, which secured Allison's stature as a respected talent within the gay and lesbian community.

When Bastard Out of Carolina was published by Dutton in 1992, Allison achieved mainstream success. Bastard was greeted with rave reviews from the Village Voice, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times Book Review, and nominated for the National Book Award. Allison returned to a small press with Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature, a critically acclaimed collection of essays.

In 1995, she published a short memoir, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, using text and family photographs. In March 1998, Allison's most ambitious work yet was released. Cavedweller is an epic novel that chronicles the trials and victories of four strong women and the opportunities they wrest from the unforgiving terrain of small town Georgia.

In addition to her own books, Allison has contributed to many publications, ranging from The New York Times to Harpers and Allure. Allison lives in Northern California with her partner and their son, and continues to pursue "the thing all writers want—for the world to break open in response to my story...The same thing I have always wanted."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Bone is nicknamed when, at birth, her "Uncle Earle announced that I was ‘no bigger than a knucklebone.’" In what way does this name come to define her character? Does it reflect on her life in any way other than her size?
  • When Bone is born, Anney is fifteen, dirt poor, and unmarried. With so many obstacles, why is she so focused on Bone’s birth certificate, which no one but her will see? How does she pass this preoccupation on to Bone?
  • Bone’s identity as a female shifts tremendously throughout the book. She worships her uncles and takes pride in being a tomboy. Yet, on page 91 she says, "I liked being one of the women with my aunts, liked being a part of something nasty and strong and separate from my big rough boy-cousins and the whole world of spitting, growling, overbearing males." How does gender play a role in the book? How does Bone’s relationship with other characters in the book shape her conception of her own gender?
  • In the middle of the book, Bone suddenly becomes quite religious. On page 150 she claims, "I became fascinated with the idea of being saved, not just welcoming Jesus into my heart but the seriousness of the struggle between salvation and damnation, between good and evil, life and death." What do you think inspires this newfound fanaticism? How do her religious feelings relate to her relationship with Daddy Glen? With her feelings of illegitimacy?
  • The issue of race is consistently present on the periphery of the book. At certain points, Bone shows particular interest in black people. For example, on page 83, when her Aunt Alma moves into an apartment building downtown, Bone becomes fascinated by one of the black children living below her relatives. Similarly, Bone and Shannon Pearl’s fight on page 170 is provoked by Bone’s anger at Shannon’s family’s racism. Why is race so important to Bone? How does race play a part in her own identity as a white person? As an illegitimate child?
  • In Greenville County, it is clear that family means something different than the traditional "nuclear" family. Bone’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother all have distinct roles in the book. How do they each contribute to Bone’s upbringing? How do you think Bone would define family?
  • On page 300, Raylene says: "Bone, no woman can stand to choose between her baby and her lover, between her child and her husband." How does this quote come to define Bone’s family? In what ways throughout the book are Anney’s loyalties tested?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 89 )
Rating Distribution

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(55)

4 Star

(20)

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(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 89 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    worth a read...

    Bastard Out of Carolina tells the tale of a young girl named Bone. Hers is a tale of physical and sexual abuse that grows steadily more violent until the explosive end of the book. It's also about her family, the Boatwrights. The big scary uncles, who adore Bone, are always drunk and shoot up each others trucks for fun. And the aunts, who always stick together whether they are picking over beans or taking care of each others children. Bone is a happy little girl until her mother gets married to Daddy Glen. Daddy Glen is very gentle with Bone at first. Things gradually go bad though when he starts physically abusing and molesting Bone. Bastard Out of Carolina is about the decisions we all make and the effects of those decisions on your children. It's about the meaning of family and loyalty. This is a serious book dealing with some hard subject matter. It's never easy to read about abuse, especially when it's a child involved, but Bastard Out of Carolina is definitely worth a read.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2008

    Couldn't Put it down

    This was an amazing book. It kept me turning the pages wanting to see what would happen to Bone. I was so angry at times, the book brought so many emotions out of me. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It was very realistic and it left me thinking even after it ended. I would read it again too, it was that good. It made me think of our society and what we need to do to protect and save girls like Bone. Please read the book but be prepared some parts will make you laugh and others will make you angry and emotional.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2007

    A reviewer

    It was very difficult for me to read this book, learning what Bone had to go through. I felt the writing and character development was excellent. I grew up in the Carolinas, and I would not be surprised at how many 'real' domestic situations exist, that are exactly like this one. I no longer live in the South, and although I am proud to have grown up there and love my family, some of the 'backwoods' thought processes are far too common there. I was very unsympathetic to the young mother in this story, and the way that she dealt with Bone's abusive relationship with Glen. I hated Glen's character, but I hated the young mother even more for allowing it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2007

    Very Intriguing Very Depressing

    The story pulled me right in, I was so concerned for the little girl I had to keep reading to find out her fate. However, this was a very depressing and somewhat disturbing. There were parts of the book that made feel so lonely, just like the character I was reading about. If you like dysfunctional and realistic, you will love this one.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2007

    A reviewer

    I'd rank this book as a classic of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' caliber. Both stories deal, and unflinchingly so, with taking a hard look at why we make the choices we make, and how those choices mold us and affect the ones around us, especially our children. I believe Dorothy Allison once said that if the writer tells enough about a character, there's a chance that the reader may love them. I found myself fascinated by each of these characters and thought the manner in which Allison probes their individual thought processes was exceptional, especially given that this is a first-person narrative. That's how you can tell this is autobiographical. Bone's understanding of those around her, especially her mother, shows us that Allison has given the situations she's lived through a lot of thought even before she picked up a pen. The reader may given into their own anger, especially during the final harrowing chapters, but Dorothy does not. She transcends it. That makes for a story that will burn into your memory. A cliche, I know, but you CANNOT shake this story. It will make you laugh, cry, and absolutely furious, but its worth it. Read it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2004

    Sad yet eloquent

    This is sad but eloquent story that was a recent book club selection at my local bookstore. There is strong and vivid imagery. It may be too harsh for young adults; but one in my group seemed quite taken with the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2003

    Makes you think.

    I just finished this book and I loved it and hated it....I loved it because of how the character (bone) was able to overcome what happened to her and try and hold her head up high...but I hated it because it made me realize what does go on in some homes and what some children go through....but overall it was a great book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    great book to read

    i hadn't went out to buy this book or knew of Dorothy Allison...it was a reading assignment for my college english class...and was i surprised! this book took me on highs and lows in each chapter. you felt so strongly for the characters in the book...you actually felt like you could reach out and touch them and feel with them. I cried so hard through this book with the young character explaining her life and trials she had to deal with.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2014

    amazing book

    amazing book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 3, 2014

    This book has alot of hidden messages inside of it. I had to rea

    This book has alot of hidden messages inside of it. I had to read it for a class in my college and fell in love with the book! Instead of reading just the chapters our teacher wanted us to I read the whole book! The love and despair in this book was truly heart wrenching. Amazing read!

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  • Posted November 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I first watched the movie Bastard Out of Carolina on Lifetime. A

    I first watched the movie Bastard Out of Carolina on Lifetime. At the time, I had no idea it was a book. I didn’t come across this knowledge until some time last year. I very vaguely remembered watching the movie (it had probably been ten years or more) and liking it. So of course I needed to read the book. I debated watching the movie again before reading the book, but ultimately decided against it as I wanted to read the book with the freshest eyes possible. However, I will watch the movie again after writing this review.

    I will admit that I put off reading this book for a long while. It sat on my to-read shelf, taunting me. From what I remembered, it was going to be a hard story to read. And it was. It was gritty and raw, but it was oh so worth it. I feel like I just waited for the perfect time (though I didn’t know it was the perfect time) to read it. I’m so glad that I finally picked this book up to read.

    You may be hesitant to pick up this book since it deals with abuse, but don’t let that deter you from reading a good book. It’s always hard to read about abuse (especially dealing with children), but sometimes it’s worth it. While I find it hard to say, the story can be beautifully (for lack of a better word) written and really touch you. This story is one of those.

    Be sure to check out my blog, KDH Reviews, for all of my reviews.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2013

    Hi

    I saw the movie and it was wonderful.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2013

    Agree on this one

    Should have been banned another teen terrible

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2013

    Classic

    This is the type of book people read and are changed for the better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Very good book !

    I first became aware of this story when the movie originally aired on cable years ago. It was disturbing then as it is now. The book gets kind of slow more than half way in & then it quickly comes to its conclusion. As with the movie and book I kept saying to myself "what is wrong with Bone's mother that she can't see that disgusting man hates her child ?!" As with life there is no happily ever after. It left me wanting to know more about what type of woman Bone grew up to be & if she ever reunited with her mother. Again, this was a very good book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Bone is every little girls heroine!

    A book that every young girl should read. Very good lessons on loving yourself as well as how complicated family can be. A wonderful book that will make you think with your heart, mind, and soul.

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  • Posted September 6, 2012

    I am so happy that I randomly picked up this book in the book st

    I am so happy that I randomly picked up this book in the book store. It moved me to tears. I'm also pleased that it was turned into a movie. Dorothy Allison deserves many accolades for this book.

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  • Posted June 29, 2012

    Beautifully written.

    :)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    AWESOME READ! HIGHLY RECOMMEND!

    Dorothy Allison did a awesome job in writting this book. I throughly enjoyed it. Couldn't put it down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    Beautiful example of southern history

    This book represents in a good kind way a culture and way of life that is disapering in Southern US. It is very well reaserched and written. It is Emmy Slattery's family from Gone With theWind. Having said that , Bone's life is nothing that I would wish on any little girl. Now having said that, how many of us big girls grew up with the exact same tale? Just goes to show you dont have to look hard to find art. It,s our responsibility to save it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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