Columbia literary festival opens with award-winning author

Dorothy Allison holding her Southern Truth Award. Allen Wallace photos.

The fourth annual Deckle Edge literary festival opened Friday night with perhaps its most famous guest yet.

Dorothy Allison, author of the best-selling and award-winning novel “Bastard Out of Carolina,” delivered the festival’s keynote address and received the second annual Southern Truth Award.

Speaking at the University of South Carolina’s Booker T. Washington Auditorium, Allison shared stories from her childhood in Greenville. She grew up in poverty and was abused by her stepfather, and said her love for stories helped her survive.

“The books saved me. Books about girls who survived. Books about boys who ran away. Books about people who insisted on not being what the world told them they were gave me hope.” she said.

Deckle Edge, according to the festival website, celebrates “authors, poets, songwriters, historians, storytellers, and activists animating South Carolina arts communities today and, more broadly, the Southern literary landscape.”

Allison is the second winner of the Southern Truth Award, following poet Nikky Finney. The honor is presented “to a Southern author whose body of work exemplifies the complexity of the South’s history, celebrates the gifts of the South’s diverse peoples, and enhances the narrative of the South by focusing on the progress we make and the continued work before us.”

Allison overcame the horrors of her childhood to become the first member of her family to finish high school (she went on to finish college as well).

“I absolutely believe that when we make our children ashamed of themselves, when we teach them to fear and hate who they are, when we push them toward pretending they are something they are not, we are robbing ourselves and we are surely robbing them of who they could be, should be, will be,” she said Friday night.

Deckle Edge continues Saturday with a day of panels, presentations and performances beginning at 10 a.m. The full schedule is available at

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Columbia, Education, Richland County