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BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA by Dorothy Allison

BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA

By Dorothy Allison

Pub Date: April 10th, 1992
ISBN: 0-525-93425-1
Publisher: Dutton

 A girl comes of age in '50's South Carolina fighting the label ``trash'' and the violent advances of her stepfather: an overly familiar story as Allison (Trash, 1988) handles the material in a surprisingly nostalgic way. When narrator Ruth Ann Boatwright (nicknamed Bone) is born to 15-year-old unmarried Anney, the word ``ILLEGITIMATE'' is stamped in big red letters on the birth certificate; for years, Anney will stubbornly try to get a new document without the glaring stigma. She will also try to make a decent home for her two daughters, marrying Glen Waddell, who--the black sheep of a prominent local family--admires the heavy-drinking, brawling Boatwright men. Glen adores Anney but the Boatwrights have their reservations: ``the boy could turn like whiskey in a bad barrel.'' Indeed, not only does he have trouble holding a job but soon makes Bone a scapegoat for his frustrations: she suffers beatings and sexual molestation, keeping silent in order not to spoil her mother's hard-won happiness. Though the family triangle is the dramatic center of the novel, the narrative meanders through the story of the Boatwright clan. Bone reflects on her strong and independent (if hard-treated) aunts and appreciates family strength, love, and loyalty while recognizing that the outside world sees the Boatwrights as antisocial trash. Compassionate if not very compelling; after the often searing power of Allison's short stories, she seems not to have claimed her voice so much as tamed it.