Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina, 1992, etc.) has assembled a nourishing compilation of articles and essays about being ``queer in a world that hates queers...poor [in] a world that despises the poor'' and a passionate writer and lover of literature. Written during the past 11 years, the two dozen pieces cover territory that has become central to Allison's writing: the ``deep and messy waters of class and sexual desire,'' prejudice, family, strong women, childhood sexual and emotional abuse, loss, love, betrayal, self-hatred, and self-definition. Taken as a whole, they offer instructive accounts of her various journeys to personal, political, and literary awareness. All the writings are punctuated by the author's signature blend of ruthless candor, rueful wit, and unfailing wisdom. The collection's new material (some of its best) focuses on how books helped her survive and escape poverty and hopelessness and ultimately reinvent her life. Strong chapters include Allison's tribute to her mentor, Bertha Harris; a ``personal history of lesbian porn''; a discussion of her science fiction fandom; and her impassioned speech at a gay and lesbian writers' conference in which she declares, ``I want to be able to write so powerfully I can break the heart of the world and heal it...remake it.'' If her earlier book Trash was the record of her rage, and Bastard the chronicle of her childhood, this is a document of her adult life--not the story of a tormented child or ``trashy lesbian'' bad girl so much as the mature musings of a wise woman. Much of this will be nothing new to readers of Allison's earlier books, and much has been printed before in the New York Native and elsewhere. But Skin is nonetheless a valuable record of a remarkable life and a testament to the struggles, triumphs, and growth of one bold and inspiring woman.