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Bastard Out of Carolina [Paperback]

Dorothy Allison
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mar 1993
A stark account of the harsh struggle of the "white trash" families of the American South. For the wealthy in Greenville County, South Carolina, life is sweet, but with precarious employment, life for the poor is just one long struggle. Allison's work, "Trash" won two 1989 Lambda Literary Awards.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 309 pages
  • Publisher: Plume Books; Reprint edition (Mar 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452269571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452269576
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 13.3 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 652,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


For anyone who has ever felt the contempt of a self-righteous world, this book will resonate within you like a gospel choir. For anyone who hasn't, this book will be an education (Barbara Kingsolver )

Dorothy Allison has an elegantly unpretentious style, raw intensity, and a great big heart. In Bastard out of Carolina she tells a horrific story without malice or self-pity. I read her work with admiration and respect (Blanche McCrary Boyd ) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Dorothy Allison is the author of ‘Trash’, a collection of short stories that won two Lambda Literary Awards in 1989, and the autobiographical ‘Two or Three Things I Know for Sure’, both of which are available in Flamingo.

‘Bastard Out of Carolina’, her first novel, was shortlisted for the American National Book Award. She lives in San Francisco.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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I've been called Bone all my life, but my name's Ruth Anne. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard-hitting 4 April 2014
By Amanda Jenkinson TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
Ruth Anne “Bone” Boatwright lives with her mother and sister in author Dorothy Allison’s own hometown of Greenville, South Carolina. Surrounded by a large extended family, Bone’s is a childhood no child should ever have to experience. The white trash Boatwrights are poor, ignorant, often violent, the men often drunk, as well as loving, sometimes tender, loyal and protective. But Bone’s mother can’t ultimately protect her daughter due to her own needs and inadequacies, and this powerful and hard-hitting story takes the reader inside an experience that few of us have ever had to confront. Allison holds nothing back in her attempt to portray the very real day-to-day life of dirt-poor white trash families, and does it very effectively. Although she has chosen to tell the story as fiction, it is firmly based on her own lived experience. The story is told by Bone herself, and her child’s voice is both convincing and so very poignant. The book offers no answers, no happy endings, but goes deep into issues of family violence and abuse and offers the reader a thought-provoking and nuanced view of the psychological contradictions that make pat and easy judgements completely inappropriate. A happy ending would be a betrayal of the deep damage child abuse can do to a child. But this reader at least came away from the book with a deeper understanding of both how such situations arise and how hard it can be to escape from them. As a novel it’s not perfect, but any faults are minor when the overall impact is considered. This is an important book and I hope this reissue brings it to a wider audience.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, basically. 8 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I don't really understand all the hype and acclaim for this novel. The first chapter is an example of quite fine writing, but overall the narrative is wandering and incoherent. Key characters quickly become annoying, and do not develop further than being basic white trash stereotypes. One or two moments of sublime description, I'll give it that. But overall the book just loses its way.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening. 7 Nov 2012
By LaoTsu
I just happenned to pick this book from my daughter's bookcase. It is not the usual book I read but I was hooked from the first few pages. The author has written a novel about a difficult and at times harrowing subject very readable even to the point where the general suffering is, at times, mixed with humour. The characters, each with their own personalities, are very interesting. The insights of the main character, Bone (the author) offer glimpses into the often complicated processes going on within the human psyche due to the relationships and circumstances she finds herself in.
There is certainly enough within the novel to make the reader feel strongly about the plight of the disadvantaged in general and the abused in particular and its subject matter is worthy of further study.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect 24 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good price, good delivery, great condition, fabulous book. Not the easiest book to read at times, but definitely well worth it. Opens your eyes and your mind.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  233 reviews
73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and Heart-Wrenching 25 Feb 1999
By A Customer - Published on
I read this book as part of a college literature assignment. Bastard Out of Carolina is a well-written, deeply moving, and unforgettable novel about a young southern girl's struggle with physical and sexual abuse, along with the stigma of being labeled "white trash" and "illegitimate." Ms. Allison's characters are vibrant and alive, especially the young girl, Bone, who poignantly tells the tale of her tormented youth. For all its literary worth, this is not a book that I would have read on my own. The story is deeply disturbing, not only in its content but in the underlying hopelessness of tone. One feels an overwhelming instinct to cradle Bone in one's arms to protect her from her frustrated, jealous, and emotionally disturbed stepfather and from her mother's senseless abandonment. Bone's reactions of burning anger, festering hatred, and perverted fantasies, along with her resultant self image, compound the hopelessness of her young life. Salvation and vindication can only be acquired through her love of gospel music...and although she's told repeatedly that she can't sing, her heart yearns and pleads to God for the gift of song. But the gift of salvation through Jesus that God freely offers is never accepted, and only Bone knows why. Instead of salvation, Bone finds a haven in the home of her lesbian aunt, Raylene. While Raylene is a compassionate, strong, and loving woman, the reader is left with the impression at the conclusion of the story that Bone struggles with her experiences for the rest of her life. Perhaps the quote by James Baldwin at the beginning of the book says it best: "People pay for what they do, and still more, for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it simply: by the lives they lead." In the end, no matter what injustices we face in this life, we all will have to answer for how we choose to live our lives. We can choose to be defeated, or we can choose to overcome. Bone's true vindication remains irretrievably in her hands.
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bastard Out Of Carolina reviewed by a Carolina Girl 4 Sep 2005
By horrorgirldonna - Published on
First off, I am from Greenville County, SC. I no longer live there, but I can say that Allison captured the setting perfectly. She described places I've seen, the kinds of people I've seen. But every county (north and south of the Mason-Dixon line) has its "white trash," though it seems to be a Southern stereotype.

The language of this book is incredible. I've noticed in some of the reviews, the readers suggested more editing. This is told from the eyes of a young rural girl. She does not have the vocabulary of an English professor. I love that people who have only had reviews for Amazon published can actually commment on the writing ability of someone with the talent of Allison. Another reviewer said the book was depressing. If she needed a "feel-good" story, she should stick with the CHICK-LIT shelves. Life isn't always fun or humorous or happy in the end.
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six stars, anyone? 4 May 2003
By Peggy Vincent - Published on
Yowtch! This searing quasi-autobiography dressed up as fiction is worth every painful moment it takes to get through it. The book's title says a lot: it's the story of the childhood of a "white trash bastard" and her battles against physical and sexual abuse. I wonder: was this the first book that inaugurated the era of so many memoirs about childhood abuse that Oprah eventually elevated to mythic levels?
Bastard out of Carolina is a scarey story with memorable characters who will haunt readers nearly as thoroughly as they haunted Bone, the child protagonist: the violent ones, the jealous ones, the just plain weird ones, the inexplicable ones...
This is not a book with a happy ending. One gets the sense that the end of the story hasn't been written - possibly because the author hasn't lived it yet.
Outstanding. Worth 6 stars.
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Overcoming stigmas in Southern Culture 24 Feb 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Having grown up in the south myself I saw the stigmas portrayed in Allison's book to be true. It is hard to express to people who were not in this environment what it was like, but Allison has done this in her book. Basterd out of Carolina is an excellent book in that it tells the story of "Bone" Boatwright, and her life as poor white trash in the south. Bone's speech patterns in telling the story are so clear and easy to read that it adds to the books authenticity and to it's believability. She tells about her mother's struggle to remove the illigitimate label from her birth cirtificate, and how this affected her life. Bone had to fight to prove herself to the world around her. She didn't want to be the bastard people called her, she didn't want to have people control her through their labels. Included in this struggle is the story of overcoming the abuse she receives from "Daddy Glen" her step father. He beats her and molests her, under the guise that she asked for it. It is only through the help of her uncles and her aunts that she is able to rise above the abuse, and the abandonment from her mother and become the person she wants to be. The book is partly autobiographical on the part of Allison, and she has used her own experiences to tell a powerful story of strength. I reccomend this book to people who enjoyed books by Fannie Flagg, and anyone who has had to deal with abuse and/or abandonment
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book But Sad 29 Sep 2006
By Dani Lee - Published on
This is an awesome book. I love to read and at this point, I have read so much - I am a hard to please reader. The prose is simple, yet it will grab and hold your attention. In fact, before I comment on the story, let me say that if you are an aspiring writer - this is a good book to read just to see what simple, yet very engaging prose looks like. I don't care what kind of writer you are, if you have to communicate anything to anyone in "words," you will benefit from reading this.

The story is told from the perspective of a child, but as an adult (and this is definitely adult reading), you won't be able to put it down. There are summaries that I won't rehash, but let me say this - one thing I can't shake is that throughout the book, I wanted to occasionally question Bone's mother about her choices. I found myself wishing that she had made different decisions - especially the decisions that hurt her children and caused her embarrassment. There are also a few racial references in here that some will find disturbing - but it was a reality of the time period in which this book is set. If you are looking for a book to make you smile or laugh, this is not it. But one motif that I did find encouraging was that of family. Throughout, Bone's extended family is a strong one - despite the hardships they face and the disagreements they have. Unfortunately, the love of her family couldn't protect her from everything.

Although this is about a poor, white, southern family, there's something in the story that brings to mind one of my favorite books,"The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison. I mention that to say, if you like Toni Morrison, I think you'll enjoy this book. Toni Morrison's prose is quite a bit more complex, but the sad feeling you get when reading about Toni Morrison's characters is similar to the feeling I get when reading about Bone and her family. Bastard Out of Carolina also shares similar themes with "The Bluest Eye" - sexual abuse, the feeling of living life as one of the seemingly "undesirables" (white trash, black, etc.), tragedy, family and no happy endings.
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