A Call for Authors as Truth Tellers

“You have to give up wanting to please.”

The clearest and most profound voice I hear on how much we as writers/authors must risk as truth tellers is that of Dorothy Allison, author of the National Book Award Finalist Bastard Out of Carolina.

The following is an excerpt from an interview titled “Dorothy Allison on the Necessity of Making Readers Uncomfortable”, published by Garden and Gun, November 22, 2019, and posted online by Literary Hub.

Interviewer: You wrote once that Bastard Out of Carolina “disturbed the peace.” Is that part of the purpose of literature and music?
Yes. That never changes. And let’s be clear about what the peace is. The peace is a kind of silence about the very issues that writers exist to call attention to. It’s so easy to disturb the peace. All you really have to do is tell the truth, and it will disturb and upset people. In the kind of writing I love, the language is encouraging and comforting while the content is profoundly disturbing.

Interviewer: That’s an effective combination.
: It’s one of the things I love about a lot of Southern literature. We do it better than anyone. We can make you laugh and cry at the same time, which is my favorite thing. I work hard to do a kind of seduction in which you read sections that are very funny and charming, and then, two paragraphs later, it ain’t charming. It ain’t funny. It’s horrible. And to have both of those things happen at the same time, that’s life.

You can read the full interview here: Editors of Garden and GunDorothy Allison on the Necessity of Making Readers Uncomfortable  Literary Hub (lithub.com)