But Allison appeals to an unusually broad spectrum -- from readers of Southern fiction to incest survivors and lesbian sex radicals.Allison takes great pride in her "white trash" roots; for her the ultimate tribute is that her books are on sale at Costco, the giant of warehouse clubs.She has a closet full of rhinestone-studded black leather jackets and a desktop full of baby pictures.Legally blind in one eye, she can't even step off a sidewalk with much confidence."I have a terrible memory," she explains, a little defensively, when caught.She arches one eyebrow and smiles wickedly, her bad eye squinting to see if I believe her. Her closet is lined with red, black and gray notebooks full of journal entries that became poems, then short stories and eventually, novels.But today, Allison -- who calls herself a "cross-eyed, working-class lesbian addicted to violence, language and hope" -- has hit the big time: "Bastard," a finalist for the 1992 National Book Award, is being made into a Hollywood movie starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and directed by Anjelica Houston.Allison has appeared on CBS's "Sunday Morning" and the Charlie Rose show, and shared top billing with Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell at this year's American Booksellers Association convention.
"It's as if the people in Dorothea Lange photographs, in the work of Margaret Bourke-White and Walker Evans, were able to speak," says the author and critic George Garrett.
But Allison is more comfortable being compared to Roseanne.
"We are both willing to be fools in public, to be despised," she says, hemming a pair of pants at the kitchen table of the small house in Guerneville, Calif., that she shares with her female partner, Alix Layman, a trombone player, and their 3-year-old son, Wolf.
Ruth Gibson Allison instilled in her daughter a defiant pride; her aunts passed along their leathery, randy humor and animated language, and her grandmother contributed an ornery insistence on telling the family stories any old way she liked.
"I made a career out of hiding out under the porch, so I could listen to them," Allison says.