“It is easy to be an entertainer as a woman. It is easy to tell stories to charm people. But mostly we believe our stories aren’t worth anything, that our stories aren’t important, and that if they are important, they’re dangerous, and therefore too dangerous to tell anyone. The only way I ever began to write was because there was a women’s movement. If there had not been a women’s liberation movement in the early 70’s, I would not only have not started writing. I would not be alive.”
I recently mentioned to a friend that I wanted to re-read Dorothy Allison’s 1992 masterpiece, Bastard Out of Carolina. “Hmm,” my friend, who admires Allison greatly, replied. “I don’t know if I’d want to re-read that book, even though I really like it.”
I know what she means. Bastard is written by a woman that knows how to tell a good story, filled with vibrant people and achingly realistic dialogue. But it is also a book about brutality, poverty, and the heartbreaking ways that families let each other down, no matter how much they love each other. The physical and sexual violence that the protagonist, a girl named Bone, experiences at the hands of her stepfather is difficult to read, even as you keep going, deeply invested in Bone’s survival and happiness.