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Bastard Fruit. Lillian Smith & Dorothy Allison. Pressing Change from the Margins of Society. A kindly little white woman making big noise in Georgia A feminist Southern writing honestly about a past filled with abuse and incest. Allison Bio.

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bastard fruit

Bastard Fruit

Lillian Smith & Dorothy Allison

pressing change from the margins of society
Pressing Change from the Margins of Society
  • A kindly little white woman making big noise in Georgia
  • A feminist Southern writing honestly about a past filled with abuse and incest
allison bio
Allison Bio
  • Dorothy Allison was born on April 11, 1949, in Greenville, South Carolina, to a poor, unmarried fifteen-year-old girl. Her mother soon married, and when Allison was five, her stepfather began sexually abusing her. This situation lasted until Allison was eleven, at which time she finally brought herself to tell a relative. Allison's mother learned of the situation and put a stop to it, but the family still stayed together.
  • In the early 1970s, Allison attended Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) on a National Merit scholarship.
  • In college, she joined the women's movement by way of a feminist collective. She credits the "militant feminists" for encouraging her decision to write. After graduating with a B.A. in anthropology[1], she did graduate studies in anthropology at Florida State University and the New School for Social Research.
  • Moved to New York City and began writing about her experiences after returning to Carolina. Her first published work “The Women Who Hate Me” was a book of poetry which drew great criticism for the representations of incest and abuse
  • Commercial success eluded until 1992’s “Bastard Out of Carolina”
smith bio
Smith bio
  • Lillian Eugenia Smith was born into a large, respectable, prosperous family in Jasper, Florida, on December 12, 1897. When the family business collapsed in 1915, her family moved to their cottage in Clayton, Georgia, and started Laurel Falls Girls Camp. Smith studied at Piedmont College in Demorest (1915-16) and then left to help run the family camp. Pursuing her great love of music, she also did two stints at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland (1917, 1919). In 1922 she went to China to offer musical instruction at a Methodist missionary school. When her parents' health began to fail in 1925, she came home and eventually took over the running of the camp, which in time she converted into a place for serious discussion of social issues. Her longtime partner, Paula Snelling, a school counselor, assisted her.
  • An outsider in the Civil Rights movement, her work represented an important step towards opening a dialogue in the South between white and black.
  • Her first novel “Strange Fruit” sparked controversy for its portrayal of interracial love and progressive ideology regarding segregation
life experiences
Smith in China

On a missionary trip to China Smith observed inhuman conditions

She returned to the United States and saw a parallel between Chinese policy and Jim Crow

Began her work at Laurel Falls Girls Camp spreading a progressive message to young girls in the deep south

Fearless attacked injustice upon return from work in China

Allison in Carolina

Grew up in an abusive family

Physically and sexually abused beginning at 5 years old

Born into poverty, learned the struggle of poor women in the Carolinas

Experience with female family members shaped her feminine ideals and play a substantial role in her work

Gritty portrayal of abuse comes from her direct experience with her family

Life Experiences
first novels
Strange Fruit


Bastard Out of Carolina


First Novels
bridging experience and art
Smith directly confronted the problems she saw in society in her novels

She believed she shouldn’t see the same atrocities she saw in China in Georgia

Personal sexuality doesn’t play a large role in her fiction

Rape, incest, physical abuse play important roles in her work

Life as a lesbian effects her approach to writing and colors some of her characters

Aims to tell honest tales about growing up poor and abused

Bridging Experience and Art
a place in the southern women writers cannon
A Place in the Southern Women Writers Cannon
  • Strange Fruit and Bastard Out of Carolina cemented their place in history
    • Effectively brought attention to their social concerns and made an impact on the literary world
    • Smith became an unlikely hero of the Civil Rights movement
    • Allison broke through as a voice for a class of people ignored by mainstream America
      • Both Authors stood up for a marginalized segment of society
  • Allison, Dorothy. 1992. Bastard Out of Carolina. New York: Plume.
  • Allison, Dorothy. 2005. Skin: Talking about Sex, Class and Literature. New York: Firebrand.
  • Bouson, J. Brooks. 2001. “You Nothing But Trash”: White Trash Shame in Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina. Southern Literary Journal 34: 101-24.
  • Jetter, Alexis. 1995. The Roseanne of Literature. New York Times, December 17, Arts section.
  • Trouard, Dawn. "Southern Women Writers, Racism, and Racists." Southern Literary Journal 37.1 (Fall 2004): 176-178.
  • Smith, Lillian. “Ten Years from Today: We are Changing Rapidly without Violence.” speech given June 5, 1951. Frankfurt, KY.
  • Johnson, Cherryl L. "The Language of Sexuality and Silence in Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society 27.1 (Autumn 2001): 1.
  • Boris, Eileen. "'Arm and Arm': Racialized Bodies and Colored Lines." Journal of American Studies 35.1 (Apr. 2001): 1.
  • Hobson, Fred. "The sins of the fathers: Lillian Smith and Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin." Southern Review 34.4 (Fall 1998): 755.
  • Watson, Jay. "Uncovering the body, discovering ideology: Segregation and sexual anxiety in Lillian Smith's..." American Quarterly 49.3 (Sep. 1997): 470.
  • Cherry, Wynn. "William Faulkner and Lillian Smith: Two Distinct Journeys." Southern Quarterly 35.4 (Summer 1997): 23.
  • O’Dell, Darlene. Sites of Southern Memory: The Autobiographies of Katharine Dupre Lumpkin, Lillian Smith, and Pauli m Urray. Charlottesville: UP of Virginia, 2001