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Conversations with Dorothy Allison

Mae Miller Claxton

Publication Year: 2012

Since the publication of her groundbreaking novel, Bastard Out of Carolina (1992), Dorothy Allison (b. 1949) has been known--as with Larry Brown and Lee Smith--as a purveyor of the "gritty" contemporary South that, in many ways, is worlds away from prevailing "Southern Gothic" representations of the region. Allison has frequently used her position, through passionate lectures and enthusiastic interviews, to give voice to issues dear to her: poverty, working-class life, domestic violence, feminism and women's relationships, the contemporary South, and gay/lesbian life. Often called a "writer-rock star" and a "cult icon," Allison is a true performer of the written word.

At the same time, Allison also takes the craft of writing very seriously. In this collection, spanning almost two decades, Allison the performer and Allison the careful craftsperson both emerge, creating a portrait of a complex woman. The interviews detail Allison's working-class background in Greenville, South Carolina, as the daughter of a waitress. Allison discusses--with candor and quick wit--her upbringing, her work in a variety of modes (novels, short stories, essays, poetry), and her active participation in the women's movement of the 1970s.

In the absence of a biography of Allison's life, Conversations with Dorothy Allison presents Allison's perspectives on her life, literature, and her conflictions over her role as a public figure. Linking her work with African American writers such as Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, Allison pioneered the genre of working-class literature, writing a world that is often overlooked and under-studied.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Literary Conversations Series

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xv

Dorothy Allison is keenly aware of her public and private roles as a bestselling writer. A veteran of the early days of the women’s movement, she maintains her political roots as a lesbian activist. As an extremely successful writer, lecturer, and teacher, she has been called a “Writer-Rock Star” and “Cult Icon,” equally...


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pp. xvii-xix

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Moving toward Truth: An Interview with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 3-16

In March 1993 Dorothy Allison’s novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, nominated for the 1992 National Book Award, had just been published in paperback, and she was at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on a reading tour. She answered the door to her posh suite dressed in T-shirt and jeans saying, “Look at this...

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Dorothy Allison, Crossover Blues

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pp. 17-20

Dorothy Allison and I were on different sides of a political argument in 1974, and we’ve liked each other ever since. When my novel The Revolution of Little Girls was published by Knopf in 1991, Dorothy was instrumental in its receiving widespread “crossover” recognition in the gay and lesbian literary community; now her...

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Literary Heroine: Talking with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 21-25

Dorothy Allison began her writing career with a collection of poetry called The Women Who Hate Me. Her next effort, the short story collection Trash, won two Lambda Book Awards in 1989. In 1992 her first novel Bastard Out of Carolina was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award. Firebrand Books has just published...

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Dorothy Allison

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pp. 26-39

On a cold rainy Boston afternoon in March, I was curled up on Dorothy Allison’s bed, eating chocolate, gossiping, and talking books with this charismatic author, who wrote the award-winning novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, and the short-story collection, Trash. Her most recent book is...

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An Interview with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 40-52

This interview was conducted as part of the annual Zale Writer in Residence Program at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women at Tulane University in November 1995. This year the program committee had invited award-winning novelist Dorothy Allison, who is most famous for her novel Bastard Out of Carolina, to be...

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“We’re as American as You Can Get”: Dorothy Allison

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pp. 53-69

Hailed as one of the most important new writers in American letters today, Dorothy Allison has written works of poetry, prose fiction, and essays. Her first book, The Women Who Hate Me, was an acclaimed volume of poetry. Her second book, Trash, a collection of short stories, was awarded two Lambda Literary...

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The Roseanne of Literature

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pp. 70-77

Dorothy Allison writes everything down: dialogue she overhears on buses, the stories of her dead aunts, fragments from old June Carter songs. She takes notes even while talking to friends on the telephone, typing bits of their conversation into her computer. “I have a terrible memory,” she explains, a little defensively, when...

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Dorothy Allison: A Family Redeemed

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pp. 78-82

Back in 1992, when Dorothy Allison burst into the literary limelight with her bestselling novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, she dubbed herself the “Roseanne of Literature.” That shocking, autobiographical story of a young girl in the South who is raped and beaten by her stepfather helped open the floodgates to the...

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Dorothy Allison

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pp. 83-92

It’s a toss-up which quality Dorothy Allison has in greater measure—strength or charm. She’s needed plenty of both to fight her way out of the desperate circumstances into which she was born. Her riveting, semiautobiographical first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, portrays a dirt-poor Southern childhood in a family...

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An Open Book

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pp. 93-97

Dorothy Allison is telling a story. Sitting at the dining room table of her house in the outer Noe Valley, she sips from a bottle of Diet Pepsi and describes the redemptive power of language, the way words restore us to ourselves. Outside, the streets possess a midafternoon languor: A mother walks her daughter home...

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Dorothy Allison

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pp. 98-101

Dorothy Allison read from her new book Cavedweller on March 31 at Lammas bookstore in Washington, DC. The intimate audience, predominately women, were instantly charmed by Allison’s Southern accent. What follows is a combination of the reading at Lammas, and her interview with OOB afterwards...

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Dorothy Allison

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pp. 102-117

Dorothy Allison was born in Greenville, South Carolina. She has published two novels, Bastard Out of Carolina—a National Book Award finalist in 1992—and Cavedweller. She has also published a memoir, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure; an anthology of essays, Skin: Talking about Sex, Class & Literature; and a collection...

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Writer Out of Carolina: Dorothy Allison

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pp. 118-121

There’s plenty to hate about Daddy Glen, the stepfather in Bastard Out of Carolina who abuses the title character. The 1992 autobiographical novel was Allison’s third book—following a 1983 collection of poetry, The Women Who Hate Me (Firebrand), and a 1988 book of short stories, Trash (Plume)— and it was her first...

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Marina Lewis Talks with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 122-140

A few years ago I was sitting on my couch at eleven p.m. just having finished a novel—I don’t remember which one—when I picked up Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. I’d intended to read the first page or two, go to bed, and continue it the next day. I stayed up until four. As the saying goes, I could not put this book...

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Lessening the Damage: Interview with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 141-149

Dorothy Allison’s saffron-colored hair frames her face. The full color is startling, as if she’s stepped out of her black and white book jacket photo, and you’re Dorothy Gale opening her door onto Munchkinland. Allison has been bringing color and life to her Southern working class background with books ranging from...

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An Interview with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 150-153

Proclaimed “one of the finest writers of her generation” by the Boston Globe and “simply stunning” by the New York Times Book Review, Dorothy Allison’s first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, was a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. Her best-selling second novel, the critically acclaimed Cavedweller, won the 1998 Lambda...

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Interview with a Master: Dorothy Allison

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pp. 154-165

Dorothy Allison, writer-rock star, cult icon, loves music. She listens as she writes, something I might’ve guessed if I’d had the second to think about it, reading breathily through the crescendo of Bastard Out of Carolina and calming down, enveloped and sweaty-palmed inside the denouement. Closing the book, I heard...

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Interview with Dorothy Allison

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pp. 166-174

D: As I talk with people, one of the things that always happens is there will be this big public discussion, and then there will be these kids that hang back, and those are the ones I wait for, the kids that are just too shy or that are too scared or too self-conscious, or feel themselves too embattled, and they’ll hang to...


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pp. 175-179

E-ISBN-13: 9781617032875
E-ISBN-10: 1617032875
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617032868

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Literary Conversations Series