BASTARD OUT OF CAROLINA by Dorothy Allison
My mom introduced me to Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel. She had seen the movie on Lifetime and loved it so much that she told me about it and I then bought the book. I saw some parts of the film a long time ago. From what I remember the girl is beaten and raped continuously by her dad and her mother watches and doesn’t do anything about it. She believes her husband when he tells her that the girl made him mad and that it is the girl’s fault and she needed punishment. The book, however, is different than the movie. This abuse does happen in the story, but it also includes so many other family dynamics. Subsequently, I kept waiting for the bad stuff to come, but it never did. Well, at least not as consistently as the abuse was in the movie.
Bone tells her life story in Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel. Her birth name is Ruth Anne but has been called Bone all of her life by her family. The book starts with her birth. Since Bone’s family did not name her father on her birth certificate, she was labeled a bastard in the state of South Carolina. This girl’s story starts from her birth and goes until she is almost thirteen years old. She has a hard life growing up poor, but it is also a normal life for everyone that grew up around her and same kind of life that her aunts and uncle had too.
Bone had a younger sister and now has a step dad, which she calls Daddy Glen. Bone’s mom, Anney, and Daddy Glen both worked but still didn’t make much money. Growing up as ‘white trash’ in South Carolina was not easy. Her family often moved because they were so poor that they could not afford the rent. The family often had things repossessed from their homes. All of her extended family was poor too.
One thing the family had was lots of love. Bone would often spend time at her aunt’s houses for weeks at a time. Her aunts and uncles loved to tell stories. The family was always reminiscing about things like when the guys came to repossess everything from their house for nonpayment. One story that the whole town repeated often was when her aunt threw everything out the window, including her underwear, and told them just to take it all.
Aunt Raylene chose never to get married nor have any children. However, she wasn’t lonely at all and enjoyed her life.
“Well, for not birthing any, it sure feels like I’ve raised a crowd. Seems like I’ve had somebody’s kids under my feet for years now. An’t nobody in this family ever been selfish with their children. Why, I’ve got up many a morning to find a porch full of young’uns somebody’s dropped off in the night.” (p. 189)
DADDY GLEN IS AN ABUSIVE STEP DAD
The only place Bone didn’t get love was from Daddy Glen. He started beating her and touching her inappropriately. Anney knew what he was doing to her daughter. But she took her husband’s side and told Bone to don’t make him mad.
“Mama thought that keeping me out of the house and away from Daddy Glen was the answer, that being patient, loving him, and making him feel strong and important would fix everything in time. But nothing changed and nothing was really fixed, everything was only delayed. Every time his daddy spoke harshly to him, every time he couldn’t pay the bills, every time Mama was too tired to flatter or tease him out of his moods, Daddy Glen’s eyes would turn to me, and my blood would turn to ice.” (p. 233)
Everyone is just trying to get through life the best they can. Bone is always feeling angry. She didn’t like being poor and moving all the time. Also, Bone felt that she was a bad person and ugly, that is why Daddy Glen beat her.
I enjoyed the escape to this little girls life in Bastard Out of Carolina: A Novel. Feelings I got from reading the book during that time period were sadness, happiness, love, and adventure. This story is real life for some people.
If the book did just focus on the rape and beatings Daddy Glen did to Bone, I would have been angry the whole way through the book, as I was during the movie. I would have had hatred towards the dad and angry with the mother for not saving her daughter.
I loved how the author took the readers to the 1950s and let us experience what life was like growing up poor during that time in the south. My mother grew up in the 1950s, and as I was reading, I imagined what it was like for my mom growing up. I wished I could have asked her about her childhood, compared to what was in the book. Sadly, she died two years ago, so there is no more asking her questions. The story gave me a glimpse of what it was like growing up poor in the 1950s as my mom did.
Another blog I wrote about child abuse was a book review of Damaged: The Heartbreaking True Story of a Forgotten Child. I highly recommend this book.