On the Same Page: Bastard Out of Carolina

May-June 2017
book cover Bastard out of Carolina
by Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, is a classic work of fiction that dramatically illuminates the lives described in current nonfiction bestsellers like J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Nancy Isenberg’s White Trash.
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.
The publication of Dorothy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina, in 1992, 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.
Take our survey