Bastard Out of Carolina is a novel by Dorothy Allison that explores poverty, abuse, and family dysfunction in the American South. The book has been banned from many school curriculums and library shelves due to its graphic and unflinching portrayal of sexual violence.
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.
- Allison, Dorothy (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 336 Pages - 02/01/2012 (Publication Date) - Penguin Books (Publisher)
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.
The Moral of “Bastard Out of Carolina”: What Readers Can Learn from this Powerful Novel
Bastard Out of Carolina, a powerful novel by Dorothy Allison, has been both celebrated and criticized for its unflinching portrayal of poverty, abuse, and family dysfunction in the American South. But the book’s frank and often harrowing depictions of sexual violence have also made it a lightning rod for controversy, leading to numerous attempts to ban it from school curriculums and library shelves. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this controversy, examine the novel’s strengths and weaknesses, and provide some context for readers who are interested in learning more about this important work.
Bastard Out of Carolina is a novel that tackles difficult and complex themes, including poverty, abuse, and family dysfunction. While the book’s frank and sometimes brutal portrayal of sexual violence has made it controversial, many readers have found that its unflinching honesty and raw emotional power make it a powerful work of literature. At its core, the novel is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of hope and love to triumph over even the darkest of circumstances.
The Power of Words: 7 Quotes from “Bastard Out of Carolina
- “People will do anything to survive. Some of us will do anything to get by.”
- “You ain’t nothing but a little whore, and that’s all you’ll ever be.”
- “Mama’s hands were strong and sure, and I knew that as long as she was there, no one would ever hurt me.”
- “It’s funny how you can miss something even when it hurts you so much.”
- “I was too young to understand what was happening to me, but I knew that it was something terrible.”
- “Love is a funny thing. It can make you do things you never thought you were capable of.”
- “We all have secrets, things we don’t want anyone else to know. But sometimes the only way to heal is to bring those secrets out into the light.”
Exploring the World of Dorothy Allison: Comparing “Bastard Out of Carolina” to Her Other Novels
Dorothy Allison is a gifted writer whose work explores some of the most challenging and complex issues of our time. Like Bastard Out of Carolina, many of her other novels offer powerful and nuanced portrayals of poverty, abuse, and family dysfunction.
In the table below, we will examine some of the similarities and differences between Bastard Out of Carolina and three of Allison’s other notable works: Cavedweller, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, and Trash.
|Novel||Themes||Similarities to Bastard Out of Carolina||Differences from Bastard Out of Carolina|
|Bastard Out of Carolina||Poverty, abuse, family dynamics||N/A||N/A|
|Cavedweller||Family dynamics, self-discovery, abuse||Exploration of complex family dynamics||Different setting and time period|
|Two or Three Things I Know for Sure||Poverty, abuse, family dynamics||Memoir-style narrative, deeply personal exploration of author’s own experiences||Different narrative structure and tone|
|Trash||Poverty, abuse, addiction, self-discovery||Complex and nuanced portrayal of abuse||Different setting and characters|
While each of these novels is unique in its own way, they share a number of common themes and preoccupations. Like Bastard Out of Carolina, they explore issues of poverty, abuse, and family dynamics, and offer readers a powerful and unflinching glimpse into the lives of those who are struggling to survive in the face of adversity.
Finding Common Ground: Recommended Reads for Fans of “Bastard Out of Carolina”
If you enjoyed Bastard Out of Carolina, you may be interested in exploring other works of literature that touch on similar themes and issues. Here are a few recommendations:
|Novel||Author||Themes||Similarities to Bastard Out of Carolina||Why You’ll Enjoy It|
|The Color Purple||Alice Walker||Abuse, family dynamics, survival||Similar exploration of abuse and survival||The novel offers a powerful and moving exploration of the human spirit, and a vivid and evocative portrait of a time and place that is both familiar and unfamiliar.|
|Push||Sapphire||Abuse, poverty, self-discovery||Similar exploration of abuse and poverty||Push is a powerful and unflinching portrait of the challenges that face many young people in America today, and a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit.|
|The Glass Castle||Jeannette Walls||Family dynamics, poverty, self-discovery||Similar exploration of family dynamics and poverty||The Glass Castle is a deeply personal and moving memoir that offers a powerful and intimate glimpse into the life of one family struggling to survive in the face of adversity.|
Each of these novels explores themes and issues that are similar to those in Bastard Out of Carolina, and offers readers a powerful and thought-provoking look at the complexities of the human experience. Whether you are looking for a powerful and moving portrait of survival and resilience, or a deeply personal and intimate exploration of family dynamics and poverty, these novels are sure to captivate and inspire you.
- “Bastard Out of Carolina is a powerful and emotionally resonant novel that offers readers a gripping and unflinching portrayal of the complexities of family relationships, poverty, and abuse. While the book’s graphic and sometimes disturbing scenes of sexual violence may be too much for some readers to bear, those who are willing to look beyond the surface will find a deeply human and empathetic exploration of the human condition.”
- “Dorothy Allison is a gifted writer whose insights into the human experience are both profound and illuminating. Bastard Out of Carolina is a novel that speaks to the heart of what it means to be human, and offers readers a deeply personal and insightful perspective on some of the most challenging and difficult issues of our time.”
- “Bastard Out of Carolina is not an easy book to read, but it is a necessary one. Dorothy Allison’s unflinching and brutally honest portrayal of poverty, abuse, and family dysfunction is a powerful reminder of the challenges that so many people face, and of the strength and resilience that we are all capable of.
- “I was deeply moved by Bastard Out of Carolina, and found myself unable to put the book down until I had read it from cover to cover. Dorothy Allison’s vivid and evocative prose draws readers into the world of her characters, and offers a powerful and nuanced exploration of some of the most difficult and complex issues of our time.”
- “Bastard Out of Carolina is a novel that will stay with me for a long time. Allison’s unflinching and raw portrayal of the realities of poverty and abuse is both harrowing and inspiring, and offers readers a powerful glimpse into the lives of those who are struggling to survive in the face of adversity. This is a book that everyone should read.”
Bastard Out of Carolina is a powerful and important novel that offers readers a deeply human and empathetic exploration of some of the most difficult and complex issues of our time. While the book’s frank and sometimes graphic depictions of sexual violence have made it controversial, it is ultimately a work of great beauty and insight, and one that has the power to change the way we think about poverty, abuse, and the human condition. Whether you are a fan of literature, or simply interested in exploring some of the most pressing issues of our time, Bastard Out of Carolina is a book that you should not miss.