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Skin: Talking about Sex, Class and Literature Paperback – April 1, 1994

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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The Daughter of Union County
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Impassioned, personal and highly intelligent, Allison's ( Bastard Out of Carolina ) collection of published writings and addresses from the past decade examines issues of class and sexuality through the intricate lenses of autobiography and the literary experience. "I try to live naked in the world," says the writer, as she blends a tender reminiscence of her mother's death with an attempt to make sense of her mother's life. "I refuse the language and categories that would reduce me to less than my whole complicated experience," she proclaims, advancing the idea that those born "poor, queer, and despised" have an imperative to do more than simply survive. All of these finely wrought essays discuss the author's emotions and politics during years marked by poverty, abuse and the realization that her sexual nature was a threat even to lesbians and feminists. The power of the writing lies in its fluid, almost musical ability to move from one dimension to another, so that politics are laced with accounts of childhood wounds, sexual pleasures and an ongoing look at how the author's work as a writer of fiction meshes with her fervent will to speak only the truth. Strap-on dildos, backyard barbecues, family terrors, bygone lovers and the literary canon all find their way into this exuberant volume by a writer who exposes even the most painful realities with reverence and awe.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Allison, a self-proclaimed feminist activist, lesbian, writer, and teacher, came from a dirt-poor white family in South Carolina. Her origins inform and permeate these essays (as well as her autobiographical novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, LJ 3/1/92, which reflects much of the subject matter here). Ultimately, though, this collection is really more about the author's intimate feelings regarding the relation of her sexuality to her self-concept and society than about class and literature. In the two dozen essays, Allison addresses topics such as moving into a mixed neighborhood with her lover, discussing her lifestyle with female prisoners or a college class, and lesbian fiction and erotica. Allison is fiercely honest and fearless when describing a sometimes marginalized life among people who reject or patronize her because of her class or sexuality. Some patrons may be uncomfortable with by the explicit sexual descriptions. Recommended for women's and gay studies collections.
Janice Braun, Hoover Institution Lib., Stanford, Cal.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Firebrand Books (April 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1563410443
  • ISBN-13: 978-1563410444
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,037,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Book Review The Forgotten Masterwork: Dorothy Allison's Skin in light of Two of Three Things I Know for Sure
Tamara M. Powell
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure. Dorothy Allison. New York: Dutton Books, 1995. 94 pp.
Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature. Dorothy Allison. Ithaca: Firebrand, 1994. 261 pp.
Two or Three Things I Know for Sure has been widely hailed as the newest offering from recent Showtime special Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison. The slim novel can be seen as a coming together of the anger Allison poured into Bastard and Trash and the growth she has experienced as she has matured and become a parent herself. Trash reveals the struggles behind her decision to live, while Two or Three Things elucidates the wisdom she has gained along the way. However, between Trash and Two or Three Things, Allison created another work, Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature. And while Two or Three Things has gained much attention, Skin has been all but ignored. But it is Skin that reveals the growth and thought that took place between Trash and Two or Three Things, and instead of looking inward, as Allison's other works do, Skin looks outward, allowing Allison to analyze, contemplate, and theorize upon how she sees the world. Allison is known as a writer who tells her stories over and over. She is conscious of this--and opens Two or Three Things with the line "Let me tell you a story" (1). "Two or three things I know for sure" she closes the first chapter, "and one of them is what it means to have no loved version of your life but the one you make" (3).
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Format: Paperback
The extraordinary Dorothy Allison can write fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and essays. Skin is her contribution to the essay genre, a collection of two dozen bits of astute rambling across a crazy quilt of subjects stitched together by the fierce honesty her readers have come to expect from all of her writing. Coming from a poor white trash family in South Carolina, she traveled beyond her origins thanks to a rampant intelligence that nothing could dull. A feminist before the word was invented, Allison is also a proud card-carrying lesbian, a writer, mentor, teacher, lecturer, and a woman who is always generous to other writers. Skin deals more explicitly and in greater depth with erotica and sexuality than her other works, so readers would do well to be forewarned. But if you're a Dorothy Allison fan, this is NOT a book to be missed.
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By A Customer on May 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
An opportunity to get thinking about a few "difficult" subjects, while enjoying a few refreshing lines of thought as well as a no-nonense yet witty style.Being a woman, gay or poor not a requisite, although it might help. If you're neither of the three, buy the book anyway, you might learn something (I did).
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Format: Hardcover
"Skin" is one of those books I keep reading over and over, for it's a funny, inspiring, rational and intensely moving collection of essays which focus on the issues she encountered in her "post-South Carolina" life from the mid-70s to mid-80s. But the issues she grapples with affect us all, in particular the way people of all sorts -- women, the working class, the queer, the queerest of the queer, etc. -- are marginalized and even dehumanized.
What sets this collection apart from other works dealing with the above is the role writing plays in Allison's life to both focus and clarify the above issues, and to act as a mode of catharsis, whereupon so much is reborn. It's an amazing collection as jaw-droppingly powerful as her fiction; that she wrings this power in a completely different format confirms her as one of our more essential -- and I mean *necessary* -- writers.
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Format: Paperback
"Skin" is a book of essays by the amazingly talented writer and activist, Dorothy Allison. I remember reading [...] Out of Carolina many years ago and thinking I might not get through it because of its gruesome and hideous portrayal of a poverty-stricken, incestuous family living in the South. Turns out that book was Allison's fictionalized account of her childhood. Skin, however, is a finely crafted series of essays with titles ranging from "Gun Crazy" to "The Theory and Practice of the Strap-on Dildo" to "Believing in Literature". She likes to talk about everything people aren't supposed to talk about, including masturbating to science fiction novels, the pain of catching a venereal disease from her stepfather when she was a child (a disease that went untreated, rendering her sterile), the thrill of S & M, butch/femme strap-on sex, and much more just as juicy. Allison's style is fearlessly intimate and unashamed. Her long struggle to escape poverty and find a voice is evident in every page, and in every page her voice is beautiful, loud, and resiliant.
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