This is a post in my 50 Nifty series, in which I’m reading through 50 books that embody each of the 50 United States. Find out why I’m doing this and which books I’m reading when (so you can read along) by checking out my first 50Nifty post, or else browse all 50Nifty posts by clicking here!
Bastard Out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison
This was another really heavy coming-of-age novel about a young girl growing up, this time in South Carolina. The author’s descriptions of some of the scenes in the book were so vivid as to be disturbing, and my heart breaks for kids that have to grow up in environments of abuse and neglect. It’s so hard to read, too, about adults who are trying their hardest and still can’t pull themselves above the poverty line, leading to deeper and deeper feelings of inadequacy and desperation. I was especially surprised by the ages of the characters in the book and realizing the maturity that was forced upon them due to circumstances (early pregnancies, abuse, malnutrition, the necessity of parents working several jobs, etc.). When Allison would remind the reader that the main character’s mother was only 26, it was another reminder of the differences in the lives of the characters as they compared to my own life, and it makes me thankful again for the opportunities and people in it.
So many of the descriptions of the people and the landscape were specific to the region, so if not for South Carolina, this book could have been for any other part of Appalachia, but it was a good choice for the list regardless. I’ve been to small Appalachian communities in Kentucky and Tennessee and so was taken back there many times through this novel’s words.