Allison worked for nearly a decade on Bastard Out of Carolina, cutting out whole plotlines and revising huge sections of the work along the way, before the book was published in 1992 to mainstream acclaim. It is narrated by Ruth Anne “Bone” Boatwright, who tells of her family and life in Greenville, South Carolina, including physical and sexual abuse by her stepfather Glen. The novel has now been translated into at least twelve languages. The Allison papers document the process by which the book was formed, from early drafts and notes to correspondence with Allison’s editor, publisher, and confidantes who suggested changes and corrections.
"I first encountered Dorothy Allison’s major work, Bastard Out of Carolina, on an overnight train (the Orient Express, no less) from Vienna to Paris. I wasn’t prepared for what would eventually happen in the book and when I got to the fateful scene in the car outside the hospital, I impulsively threw the book out of the window—it is still in a field somewhere along the train line. My reaction is a testament to the importance of the scene of violation that Allison wanted to construct for the reader—it was real, and sudden and devastating. I purchased the book upon my return to the United States and it has been one of my favorites since…. [Dorothy Allison is] one of the most important feminist authors of the 20-21st century."