Addressing a crowd of about 100 people, lesbian author Dorothy Allison spoke about the power and influence of the writer's voice at the Harold Washington Library Center Cindy Pritzker Auditorium on Nov. 3.
The Chicago Humanities Festival sponsored Allison's talk. This year's theme is "America: From Art and Literature to the History and Present of the Americas." The festival runs through Nov. 11.
Allison is a political activist, speaker and author of the award-winning books Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller. She lives in northern California with her wife Alix Layman and their son Wolf Michael.
Booklist senior editor Donna Seaman introduced Allison and also moderated the event.
Speaking about feminism and the feminist movement, Allison expressed concern that many young women don't consider themselves feminists. Allison said that she thinks of herself as a radical, lesbian feminist.
On the issue of marriage equality and her 2008 California wedding, Allison said, "That my personal intimate relationship should be so dangerous ... that's not funny." She also said that Planned Parenthood is a very useful organization.
Unlike many other authors, Allison noted that she isn't on Facebook, nor does she tweet or blog.
Allison said that although writers are earning less for their work, there are also more avenues for writers to have their voices heard.
In talking about the writing process and where her stories come from Allison said, "I learned from reading Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers and Flannery O'Connor that playing with language produces glorious, complicated and layered stories."
During the Q&A session Allison was asked about how writers find their voice. She remarked that all writers should use their own life experiences to tell their stories.
Allison was also asked if any members of her family had issues with her book Bastard Out of Carolina. She responded, "I am a deeply lucky person because nobody in my family reads." When the movie was released some family members got angry; however, most of them loved the film.
The Chicago Humanities Festival's mission, according to the organization's website, is to create opportunities for people of all ages to support, enjoy and explore the humanities through annual festivals.
See www.dorothyallison.net and www.chicagohumanities.org/Festival/Events.aspx for more information.