Bastard Out of Carolina

Allison, Dorothy

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Wear, Delese
  • Date of entry: Oct-21-2003
  • Last revised: Jan-08-2007


This novel is a coming of age narrative, written from the perspective of Bone, the out-of-wedlock (hence, bastard) young daughter of one of the fiercely proud, dirt-poor Boatwrights of Greenville County, South Carolina. The story moves from Bone's very young recollections of life with her waitress mother Anne and her numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins; through her mother's brief marriage and quick widowhood; to her volatile, painful marriage to Daddy Glenn, whose jealousy of Bone, combined with his own destructive evilness, leads the story to a heinous climax of sexual abuse.


Allison's gift is to craft a story with the acutely sensitive eye of a child. Bone sees everything, and tells everything, which is why this is an extraordinary portrait of coming of age, full of the complexities of mother-child relations, growing bewilderment with one's body, sexual awakening, self-doubt, and all this in the context of southern poverty, which also makes this a remarkable example of regional writing.

The sexual abuse of Bone at the hands of her stepfather presents a portrait of this phenomenon that is contextual, culturally situated, and uncensored via Bone's own lived experience, which makes it a particularly important perspective for a fuller understanding of the experience. It also raises difficult questions about the relationship between the mother, the abuser, and the abused child that is much more fully developed and nuanced than psychologized accounts. The novel was a National Book Award finalist.



Place Published

New York



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