Dorothy Allison grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, the first child of a fifteen-year-old unwed mother who worked as a waitress. Now living in Northern California with her partner Alix and her teenage son, Wolf Michael, she describes herself as a feminist, a working class story teller, a Southern expatriate, a sometime poet and a happily born-again Californian.
The first member of her family to graduate from high school, Allison attended Florida Presbyterian college on a National Merit Scholarship and studied anthropology at the New School for Social Research.
An award winning editor for Quest, Conditions, and Outlook—early feminist and Lesbian & Gay journals, Allison's chapbook of poetry, The Women Who Hate Me, was published with Long Haul Press in 1983. Her short story collection, Trash (1988) was published by Firebrand Books. Trash won two Lambda Literary Awards and the American Library Association Prize for Lesbian and Gay Writing.
Allison says that the early Feminist movement changed her life. "It was like opening your eyes under water. It hurt, but suddenly everything that had been dark and mysterious became visible and open to change." However, she admits, she would never have begun to publish her stories if she hadn't gotten over her prejudices, and started talking to her mother and sisters again.
Allison received mainstream recognition with her novel Bastard Out of Carolina, (1992) a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award. The novel won the Ferro Grumley prize, an ALA Award for Lesbian and Gay Writing, became a best seller, and an award-winning movie. It has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Cavedweller (1998) became a national bestseller, NY Times Notable book of the year, finalist for the Lillian Smith prize, and an ALA prize winner. Adapted for the stage by Kate Moira Ryan, the play was directed by Michael Greif, and featured music by Hedwig composer, Stephen Trask. In 2003, Lisa Cholendenko directed a movie version featuring Krya Sedwick.
I spoke with Dorothy recently as part of my college's "Mouths of Others" creative arts speakers series. She is full of fire and story and looks right through you in that simple, razor sharp way that only Southerns can. I think you will dig this conversation. I know her writing will undo you. Transformation in a lightning bolt, presented for your enjoyment.