Earlier tonight, I finished Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. This was probably not the best book to complete while viewing the second season of Twin Peaks for obvious reasons, but nonetheless I’m glad I read it. Far gladder than I am to be watching Twin Peaks, which I may abandon after Laura Palmer’s killer is revealed mid-season. Actually, I could devote an entire post to believing David Lynch’s work to be ”good in theory.” Why bother? Flow recently ran a great column about media studies and the neoliberal academy, which addresses concern about scholars privileging quality programs like The Wire over other shows. This is the same field that killed many trees for the aforementioned cult TV series.
But back to Allison’s novel. Most people know going in that the semi-autobiographical accounts of sexual assault and child abuse Glen Waddell inflicts in his stepdaughter Bone Boatwright are horrifying, and that the casual racism demonstrated by many of the protagonist’s family members in a pre-civil rights South Carolina is appalling. But if Allison didn’t have an ear for dialog and unsettling way with words, it wouldn’t be classic feminist literature alongside Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues, Audre Lorde’s Sister/Outsider, Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Feminist Thought, Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa’s This Bridge Called My Back, and many other important works I recently saw discarded at a local used book store. Undergrads! Pack them when you move.
Also, I’d imagine we’ll one day be putting Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism on this list. Can’t wait for my copy to arrive in the mail. For now, I’ll direct you toward editor Jessica Yee’s response to mainstream feminism’s lack of commentary on it, as well as Elevate Difference’s book review.
One thing that surprised me about Bone is how deeply she identifies with female country singers. Having read Skeeter Davis’ memoir, Bus Fare to Kentucky, and witnessing the strength many southerners draw from Christianity, Bone’s love of gospel music made sense. But I was touched by how Bone finds her voice by listening and singing along to heroines like Patsy Cline and the immortal Kitty Wells. Bone identifies with Wells’ “Talk Back Trembling Lips” and “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” which steel her resolve and provide catharsis.
April was Sexual Assault Awareness month. However, these forms of violence devastate throughout the year. Thus, make sure to donate to the rape crisis centers that serve Cleveland, Texas or support organizations like Girls Educational and Mentoring Services or share information on other groups that need our help. Remember, it’s never too late to help women and girls reclaim their voices.