Feminist author Dorothy Allison's breakthrough novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, was based on her own upbringing in Greenville, S.C. She was born to a 15-year-old mother, and the conflict between the main character and her sexually abusive stepfather is central to the story, which became a movie directed by Anjelica Huston in 1996. The National Book Award finalist and recipient of the Robert Penn Warren award will appear at University of Tampa March 25 as part of the Writers at the University series. We spoke to the 60-year-old via phone, from her home in northern California.
What's on your nightstand?
The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault. It's very much for people who are fascinated by words and language. And Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. My son and I read it together. He is 17 and wants to be a historian. It's about Henry VIII, but it's told through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell.
Can you explain why Arsenault's book is for those fascinated by words?
First, this is a mystery in a library. Part of the mystery is when some research librarians start discovering citations that don't make any sense, but if you put them together, it makes a sort of story. It's a mystery that is offbeat. And the language is really gorgeous writing, and that always seduces me.
What feminist authors do you encourage people to read?
I always recommend Grace Paley. I'd say pair anything by Grace Paley with Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer