Bastard Out of Carolina

Bastard Out of Carolina is the story of an illegitimate child of a teenage mother from a dirt poor family. As if that isn't bad enough, Bone's real troubles begin when her mother marries Daddy Glen.

book cover

Written by Dorothy Allison, this 1992 novel begins with Ruth Anne "Bone" Boatwright telling us what she's heard about the beginning of her life.

Her mother, Anney, is fifteen years old and eight months pregnant. She's riding with two of her sisters and their brother in his car. Anney is asleep in the back seat when he plows into the back of another vehicle. She is thrown from the car and knocked unconscious.

When she wakes up three days later, her baby has been born and named. Information offered by family members about the baby's father resulted in conflicting stories. So the baby was labeled as illegitimate.

Anney is fine with the name given her baby. It's a combination of her name and her sister's. But she is not fine with her child being labeled illegitimate. She tries repeatedly to get a new birth certificate with that hated word removed.

Bone tells us she got her nickname when her Uncle Earl first saw her and declared she was "no bigger than a knucklebone." When one of her young cousins pulled back the blanket to see "the bone," the name stuck. She was "Bone" from then on.

When Anney is seventeen, she marries a man named Lyle Parsons. He was killed in a car wreck a short time later, leaving her alone again and with a second daughter, Reese.

Anney remains single for a couple of years, working as a waitress, and struggling to support herself and her girls.

When Glen Waddell begins showing up at the restaurant where Anney works, it's not only for the food.

Glen is from a family that owns a dairy, and he's the only one in the family who hasn't done well. For one reason or another, he manages to lose job after job. He never quite seems to get the approval he craves, especially from his father.

It takes a while for Anney to respond to his relentless pursuit. But she finally does and when she becomes pregnant she agrees to marry him.

Bone is well aware of the fact that her mother has come to love Glen, but she has no idea of the things she will do to be with him.

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In the remainder of the book, Bone tells of her life after Glen became "Daddy Glen." It's not pretty. If you're looking for a feel-good story with a happy ending, this is not it.

It is, however, a story that needs to be told, and discussed at length. It's a story a lot of us can relate to in some way. It's a story many children are living right now, and not telling anyone.

These children need our help. It's a reminder for adults to investigate further if something doesn't seem right.

In July of 2012, a California school board banned Bastard Out of Carolina from the advanced placement English supplemental reading list. The Fremont Unified School District said "it's protecting children from the book's graphic account of childhood abuse."

Don't they realize that child abuse is happening to children younger than these students?

It makes no sense to me to pretend abuse is not happening. It only results in causing those children who are, or have been, or will be abused to feel even more alone and ashamed.

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