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141 Lessening the Damage: Interview with Dorothy Allison Ellise Fuchs/2006 Originally published by Reprinted by permission. 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 the short story collection Trash to her best-selling novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, and memoir Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. Known for her honesty and an in-your-face writing style, she is also committed to teaching. First published in 1988, Trash was recently translated into Italian by Margherita Giacobino for the small publisher, Il Dito e La Luna. The collection is part of an ongoing series called Officina T-Parole in Corso, dedicated to translating in Italian texts that “enrich us, liberate us from preconceptions and put ideas in motion.” In early June, Allison came to Italy to introduce her stories. She read pieces from Trash in English, sharing the stage with women who read in Italian in each city she visited. The tour took her around northern and central Italy in a week’s time. Her first stop was Torino, where PopMatters had the opportunity to ask her about her activism, love of language, search for truth, and life as a parent. EF: Here you are in Italy on a book tour for the Italian version of Trash. How does it feel when someone asks you to bring to life, in another language, something you wrote years ago? DA: It’s very flattering. It’s kind of oddly exciting. I realize that I have a specific political critique of my own nation. It’s implicit in almost everything I write. Then I step outside of the United States, into another country, 142 CONVERSATIONS WITH DOROTHY ALLISON and I’m not sure whether that specific critique applies. But then I took this 90-degree turn in my head: I started rereading Trash and I tried to imagine, “What would it be like to be an Italian woman reading these stories?” And a very particular thing happened. It hit me again last night when I saw the Italian cover of the book projected large on the screen, the picture of the kids and the van. It works really well, because, well, it’s like Jesus said, “The poor we have always with us.” And the Italians have their own “trash.” The Italians have some of the same family complex dynamics that I write about in the stories. EF: The Italian family continues to be rather sacred. People are just starting to talk openly about family issues, which are sometimes harder to say than, for instance, coming out as gay or lesbian. DA: I was raised in a very rural, working-class Southern family, which I find to be really similar to a lot of the women I talked to in Italy . . . Let’s be very frank: I write about families in deep trouble. I write about violence against women and children. I write about men who really are kept as little boys and raised to be little boys, who never grow up. That’s one of the huge issues of the Southern working-class culture. This is what Italian women tell me is one of the dynamics here. EF: It is true that men often go from their mothers’ homes to their wives’ homes without any steps in between. It is starting to change now, where one lives with friends in a shared apartment before marriage. But this is new for both men and women. DA: It’s a little complicated. I am afraid of my own sense of American arrogance . And I’m afraid of making assumptions about other cultures. So what I do is, I ask questions. To be specific about your [original] question, when I get one of these inquiries, I want to know, what has this press done? What other books do they publish? What about the translator? What kind of work does she do? Everything I was told [for this translation] was wonderful. It put me in a context that I recognize and understand. EF: As I’m sure you know, Officina T-Parole in Corso, as part of Il Dito e La Luna, started this series with a translation of...


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