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Arts & Culture > Great Gay Author: Dorothy Allison
 

Great Gay Author: Dorothy Allison


For 7 years, having been born to a 15 year old women child Dorothy
was abused by a stepfather from the ages of 5-12. She became a leading
advocate for abused women and children along with neing a respected
poet/writer.




This is the twenty-sixth post in a
series highlighting the best gay and lesbian authors from the 20th
century (with a few before and after that period) who have recorded in
fiction, and nonfiction, the history of gay people telling what life is,
and was, during an important time of history










































Allison at the 2008 Brooklyn Book
Festival
.
BornApril 11, 1949 (age 61)
Greenville, South Carolina
(1949-04-11)
Occupationwriter, poet, novelist
NationalityUnited States American
Subjectsclass struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family
Literary movementFeminism
Spouse(s)Alix Layman

Children





Early life


Dorothy E. Allison was born on April 11, 1949 in Greenville, South Carolinagonorrhea to Ruth
Gibson Allison, who was fifteen at the time. Ruth was a poor and unmarried
mother who worked as a waitress and cook. When Allison was five, her step dad
began to sexually abuse her. It lasted for seven years (until age 11) and then
she was able to tell a relative, who told Ruth, and it stopped. The family still
would remain together. The physical abuse lasted for another five years, and she
contracted from her
stepfather. This went undiagnosed until Allison was in her 20's, making her
unable to have children

The family would move to central Florida to escape debt. Allison had
witnessed her family members die because of the extreme poverty. Allison soon
became the first person in her family to graduate high school. At age 18, she
got out of the house and would soon attend college.

College years


In the early 1970s, Allison attended Florida Presbyterian College (now
Eckerd College) on a
National
Merit
women's movement by
way of a feminist collective.
She credits "militant feminists" for encouraging her decision to write. After
graduating with a B.A. in anthropology,[2] she did
graduate studies in anthropology at Florida State University. scholarship. While in college, she joined the

[edit] Career


Allison held a wide variety of jobs before her career took off: she was a
salad girl, a maid, a nanny, a substitute teacher, helped establish a feminist
bookstore in Florida, worked at a child-care center, answered phones at a rape
crisis center, and clerked with the Social Security Administration.
She trained during the day and at night she sat in her motel room and wrote on
yellow legal pads. She wrote about her life experiences, including the abuse by
her stepfather, poverty, her lust for women. This became the backbone of her
future works.[3]

In 1979, she moved to New
York City
, where she began classes at the New School for Social Research where she would
receive her M.A. in urban
anthropology
in 1981.

She was a panelist at the Barnard Conference on Sexuality in 1982, where the
New York chapter of Women Against Pornography picketed
outside, calling the panelists "anti-feminist terrorists", and even accused
Allison of being a proponent of the sexual abuse of children because of the
content in her works. She responded to these critics in The Women Who Hate
Me: Poems by Dorothy Allison
, a collection of poems that won her recognition
among the gay and lesbian community.

At this time, she was teaching college courses, served as a guest lecturer,
and contributing to publications like The Village Voice, the New York Native, and
the Voice Literary Supplement.

In 1988, Allison published Trash: Short Stories, a collection of
semi-autobiographical short stories, which won her two Lambda
Literary Awards
. The book was inspired by a negative review of Mab Segrest'sMy
Mama's Dead Squirrel
that infuriated Allison. Segrest's work was one of her
favorite novels and she was repulsed by reviewer's use of words like "white
trash" and his insulting attitude toward Southerners. To dispel the stereotype
that Southerners were stupid, brain-damaged, or morally lacking, she spent the
next two years pumping out Trash. The title of the book derievss from the
word use as a racial slur novel against her family.

She had spent nearly a decade attempting to finish her first novel Bastard Out of Carolina,
which she took half-finished to Dutton Publishing in 1989, where she received a
$37,500 cash advance to complete it. It appeared in 1992.

It would later be adapted as a film on TNT directed by Anjelica
Huston
, but was aired instead on ShowtimeMaritime Film Classification
Board
initially banned the release of the motion picture, until it ban was
reversed on appeal. In November 1997 the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a decision to ban the book in schools because of its graphic
content.[3]
because of its graphic content. The Canadian
In 1998 Allison published Cavedweller, which received numerous awards.
She founded the Independent Spirit Award. It was while writing process this
novel that Allison, with her partner Alix Layson, a printer, became a mother of
a son named Wolf Michael.

In 2002, Allison re-released Trash, but added a new short-story
"Compassion", which was selected for both The Best New Stories from the South
2003
and The Best American Short Stories 2003.

In 2007, Allison announced that she is working on a new novel, She
Who
, to be published by Riverhead Press. The story follows three female protagonists in California, all of whom lives have been shaped by violence.

She had a three month residency at Emory University in Atlanta in 2008 as
the Bill and Carol Fox Center Distinguished Visiting Professor.

] Writing


Themes in Allison's work include class struggle, child and sexual abuse, women, lesbianism, feminism, and family.
Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina,
was published in 1992 and was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book
Award
.[2] Graphic
in its depiction of Southern poverty, family ties, illegitimacy, child abuse, and rape,
Bastard went on to win the Ferro Grumley and Bay Area Reviewers Award for
fiction. The novel has been translated into over a dozen languages. A film
version, directed by Anjelica Huston, premiered in 1996 on Showtime amid some controversy for its
disturbing content. The film was banned by Canada's Maritime Film Classification
Board
, both theatrically and in video release.

Cavedweller,
Allison's second novel, was published in 1998 and became a New
York Times bestseller
. It won the 1998 Lambda Literary Award for fiction and was a finalist for
the Lillian Smith Prize. Cavedweller has been adapted for the stage and
screen, most notably in the 2004 film starring Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon.

Her influences include Toni Morrison, Bertha Harris, and Audre Lorde. Allison says The Bluest Eye helped
her to write about incest. In 1975, Allison took a class from Harris at Sagaris,
a feminist theory institute in Plainfield, Vermont. Harris told her to be
"honest and fearless, especially when writing about lesbianism". In the early
1980s, Allison met Lorde at a poetry reading. After reading what would
eventually become her short-story "River of Names," Lorde approached her and
told her that she simply must write.[3]

Support of small
presses


Allison founded The Independent Spirit Award (not to be confused with the Independent Spirit Awards) in 1998, a
prize given annually to an individual whose work within the small press and independent
bookstore
circuit has helped sustain that enterprise. The award is
administered by the Astraea Foundation and is designed to encourage people and
institutions which are vital to supporting new writers and introducing readers
to works that may otherwise go unread.

She has contributed to Conditions, the Village Voice,
the New York
Native
, and the Voice Literary Supplement.

Allison is a member of the board of International PEN. She serves on the advisory
boards of the National Coalition Against
Censorship
, Feminists for Free Expression, and the James
Tiptree, Jr. Award
, a prize that is presented annually to a science fiction or fantasy work that explores and expands on
ideas of gender.

Sex and gender
activist


Allison remains dedicated to safer
sex
and is active in feminist and lesbian communities. She is one of the
founders of the Lesbian Sex Mafia, an information and support
group form women of all sexual orientation and identity.[5]

Personal life


She lives in Monte Rio, California with her partner, Alix Layman, and son, Wolf. Allison
was chosen to be Writer in Residence for Columbia College, Chicago, in 2006.
She served as the Emory University Center for Humanistic
Inquiry’s Distinguished Visiting Professor for spring 2008. Allison also acted
as the McGee Professor of Writing at Davidson College for the fall of 2009.

Bibliography


Writing



[edit] Filmography



Stage



Awards





Wolf





posted on Aug 26, 2010 5:45 PM ()

Comments:

Just checked with Netflix as they have both.Cavedweller and Bastard.Will checked this out.
comment by fredo on Aug 27, 2010 1:04 PM ()
Bastard is EXCELLENT!
reply by greatmartin on Aug 27, 2010 6:18 PM ()
She has quite a resume there.I do not recall the Cavedweller.I may or may not have seen this and will checked this out on Netflix to see if I had.
Thank you for this information .
comment by fredo on Aug 27, 2010 1:00 PM ()

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