b. 1949 Greenville
, South Carolina
Though she had enjoyed a cult following among the lesbian community since 1983, when her first book of poetry was published, Dorothy Allison entered the national spotlight in 1997 with the publication of her National Book Award Finalist and New York Times Bestselling novel Bastard Out of Carolina.
Resonant in all her works is a sense of what I usually call "white trash pride." Born to a fourteen-year-old unwed mother, raised by a violently abusive stepfather in a poverty stricken area, many might marvel that she survived to adulthood, let alone became a celebrated author. She credits her mother with her inspiration and the feminist movement with her salvation.
Many of her books are at least semi-autobiographical, and reading Bastard Out of Carolina or Trash will give a very good sense of what it is to be poor white trash in the South.
My favorite interview with Dorothy Allison was the one where she came out. When I first saw the headline: "Dorothy Allison Comes Out," I thought, "Duh." I mean, all her early books were published by small gay and lesbian presses and her sexuality has never been a secret. But she came out as a science fiction fan! And the interview was all about how much she loved the escapism of science fiction when she was growing up but has always been ashamed to admit she reads it because it isn't "real literature" but now she wants to stand up and let the world know. Hooray!
Her books include:
- Trash (1988) short stories
- The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990 (1990) poetry
- Bastard Out of Carolina (1992) fiction
- Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature (1993) essays
- Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (1995) memoir
- Cavedweller (1998) fiction
In 1996, Bastard Out of Carolina
was also made into a movie, directed by Anjelica Huston