#CBR6 Review #43: Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

I really can’t talk about this book. It’s important and groundbreaking, but it devastated me so much that I couldn’t even cry. I just sort of curled up into a ball and felt awful all evening after I finished reading it.

Ruth Anne Boatwright, known as Bone, doesn’t know who her father is, and her family won’t tell. To add further insult, the state of South Carolina stamps “bastard” on her birth certificate and her fifteen-year-old mother can’t get them to take it off. With this legacy, Bone must wear such a label while having a mother who has the unluckiest taste in men–at first–which then evolves into the WORST taste in men. When she marries Glen Waddell, the novel reaches a turning point from which there can be coming back. If you’ve never read it, I won’t spoil it for you. But it gets ugly and stays that way for the book.

Allison adroitly depicts dysfunctional family relationships, and she holds nothing back. It’s a striking book, but a very sharp, painful one. Especially when you consider that the book begins with Bone’s birth and ends when she is almost 13 years old. It holds some similarities to To Kill a Mockingbird, but it is a much more explicit coming-of-age story than Harper Lee’s classic.

I don’t agree with the libraries who have banned the book, even though I (kind of) get why they want to. But I think there is potential for learning and empathy from a reader who is unfamiliar with family dysfunction, crushing poverty, and horrific abuse.


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