Bastard Out of Carolina

As if being the illegitimate child of a teenager from a dirt poor family isn't bad enough, Bone's real troubles begin when her mother marries Daddy Glen. Bastard Out of Carolina is her story. 

Written by Dorothy Allison, this 1992 novel begins with Ruth Anne "Bone" Boatwright telling us what she's heard about the beginning of her life.

Her mother, Anney, is fifteen years old and eight months pregnant, riding with two of her sisters and their brother in his car. Anney is asleep in the back seat when he plows into the back of another vehicle. She is thrown from the car and knocked unconscious.

When she wakes up three days later, her baby has been born and named. Information about the baby's father was offered by family members, who gave conflicting stories that resulted in the baby being labeled as illegitimate.

Anney is fine with the name given her baby - it's a combination of her own name and her sister's - but she is definitely not fine with her child being labeled illegitimate. She tries repeatedly to get a new birth certificate with that hated word removed.


Bone tells us she got her nickname when her Uncle Earle first saw her and declared that she was "no bigger than a knucklebone", and one of her young cousins pulled back the blanket to see "the bone".  It stuck.  She was "Bone" from then on.

When Anney is seventeen, she marries a man named Lyle Parsons who was killed in a car wreck a short time later, leaving her alone again with a second daughter, Reese.

Anney remains single for a couple of years, working as a waitress, and struggling to support herself and her girls.

When Glen Waddell begins showing up regularly at the restaurant where Anney works, it is not only for the food.

Glen is from a family who owns a dairy, and he is the only one in the family who has not done well. For one reason or another, he manages to lose job after job, never quite getting the approval that he craves, especially from his father.

It takes awhile for Anney to respond to his relentless pursuit, but she finally does, and when she becomes pregnant, agrees to marry him.

Bone is well aware of the fact that her mother has come to love Glen, but she has no idea of the things she will do to be with him.

In the remainder of the book, Bone tells us of her life after Glen became "Daddy Glen".  It's not pretty.




If you're looking for a feel-good story with a happy ending, Bastard Out of Carolina is not it. 

It is, however, a story that needs to be told  and discussed at length. It's a story that many of us, in some way, can identify with.  It's a story that so many children are living right now, and not telling anyone. 

These children need our help.  It's a reminder to adults to be awake and aware, to investigate further if "something just doesn't seem right". 




In July of 2012 a California school board banned Bastard Out of Carolina from the advanced placement English supplemental reading list.

The Fremont Unified School District said "it is protecting children from the book's graphic account of childhood abuse".

Do they somehow not realize that child abuse is actually happening to children younger than the
ones they are trying to keep from reading about it?!

It makes no sense to me to pretend abuse is not happening. It only results in causing those children who are, have been, or will be abused to feel even more alone and ashamed.


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