GCLS Trailblazer recipient 2018
The Golden Crown Literary Society (GCLS), the leading lesbian literary organization, names Dorothy Allison the 2018 Trailblazer Award Recipient.
The GCLS presents their annual Trailblazer Award to a lesbian writer for their lifetime achievement, in recognition of the contributions she has made to the field of lesbian literature.
Ms. Allison received mainstream acclaim with her first novel, Bastard Out of Carolina. Translated into over a dozen languages, it was adapted to film and directed by Angelica Huston for Showtime Networks in 1996. Her second novel, Cavedweller (Dutton, 1998), won numerous awards and was adapted for the stage and screen, most notably in the 2004 film of the same name starring Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, directed by Lisa Cholodenko. Bastard Out of Carolina was a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award, and Cavedweller was a national bestseller and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Allison also authored the memoir Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (Dutton, 1995), and the poetry chapbook The Women Who Hate Me (1990). She has a collection of short fiction, Trash, published in two editions—from Firebrand in 1989 and an expanded edition from Penguin, 2003. She released two books of essays Skin: Talking about Sex, Class and Literature (Firebrand, 1995). Dorothy was born in Greenville, South Carolina and makes her home in Northern California with her partner Alix and their son, Wolf Michael.
Among her many honors are three Lambda Literary Awards, various keynote speaking engagements including the 11th Annual GCLS Conference, multiple fellowships and residencies, and other prestigious literary awards. In April 2016, Allison was inducted into South Carolina Academy of Authors. Having taught at some of the most prestigious universities in the country, Allison continues to be a sought-after lecturer and teacher.
Interview with Dorothy Allison
(a) Why do you write?
I write a lot out of outrage at what I don’t find in a lot of the literature I read–reflections of people I love and admire, and now and again fear (and yes desire). Also, frankly, because I love it. Telling stories, putting words on the page, confronting silence, reaching out to the community I value–all that spurs me. Damage and uncertainty gets in the way, but I have learned a great many ways around that over the years I have been doing this. Unfortunately I am still a slow writer, constantly rewriting so sometimes what I am driven to confront is not what the community is currently addressing. “Oh well,” I think and can hear my mama’s voice echoing in my neck.
Which writers do you admire?
Oh my god! There are so many women writers out there doing the good work these days. But I especially keep up with the lesbians, the novelists and poets especially, so just a few – Roxanne Gay, Carmen Maria Machado, Carina Chocano, Nicola Griffith, Sarah Waters, Elana Dykewoman, Jewelle Gomez, Lillian Faderman, Ann McMan, Kelley Eskridge, and so many more I cannot list them off the top of my head. I also collect and reread writing by those we have lost. I miss desperately Ursula LeGuin and Gloria Anzaldua. Grateful we have their books….
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Best thing in the world is to finish something. It’s a joy I work towards. Also should just say that in a world in which we experience so much contempt and denial, I do enjoy upsetting bigots and racists.
What has inspired you lately?
I am working on a manuscript set in the early seventies (sort of anyway, it’s complicated) and I have been rereading all those early feminist works with enormous enjoyment. The poetry! The anthologies! The little magazines printed in the backs of commercial shops by revolutionary women reaching out to the radical women all over the country. So wonderful, and I have to say the photos of women marching in the streets are still sexy to me.
Is there a book you would have liked to have written?
Of course, a long list. But right now I am thinking a lot about Ursula Leguin. My god can you imagine, writing “The king was pregnant.” — which is how she opened The Left Hand of Darkness. Everyone should read that book. It gives me something to work toward.
What advice would you offer to aspiring writers?
Write. Wrote all the time. Carry a notebook and be rude and go off alone to make notes. Make writing a place of satisfaction. Make writing your release and your purpose. Share what you write. Rewrite. Read out loud. Make friends with other writers; you are going to need them.