First of all I love that Allison published this 1994 collection of essays with Firebrand Books, a feminist and lesbian press, rather than a large publisher, which surely she could have, based on the success of Bastard out of Carolina, published by Dutton in 1992. Instead of using her success, even to have a better platform for her message to advance her career, she used it to advance her community, to give back to the press that gave her a platform in the first place, with her first book, Trash. (A chapbook of poetry preceded Trash.)
I also found her revelations about her part in/side of what she calls the "Barnard Sex Scandal" to be quite edutational. (You may not be able to view the article I linked to if you don't have a subscription. I'll send you the article if you want it. Let me know.)
But to get back to what someone who hasn't read Skin might want to know to help them decide if they wanted to read it, the book is a collected essays, some of them previously published in anthologies or New York Native. The work pretty much lives up to its title, discussing sex, class, and literature with brave candor.
On her website, Allison describes herself as "a Southern expatriate." Though that's true, in more ways than just geographic--meaning that Allison moved away not just from the land where she was raised, but also presumably from her class, you believe Allison's repeated statements of how fiercely she loves her family--except her abusive stepfather, who makes her puke, literally.
Anyway, I highly recommend this for a personal take from a second wave feminist's mouth. Players in the essays include CR groups (the Lesbian Sex Mafia, for one), collective houses, small magazines, writing workshops, lovers, a Brooklyn fixer-upper, her dying mother, and her growing son. Even if you're not lesbian, feminist, working class, an incest survivor, a writer, or in any of the other groups that might best identify with Allison's work, I'm pretty convinced that you'll still be able to relate to something because of the author's generous openness. i.e. She shares more than she has to, and with surprising kindness for one who has many reasons to be angry, and in fact describes herself often as angry.
Sorry to sound corny, but I kind of feel like a better person for having read it.
I use the word queer to mean more than lesbian. Since I first used it in 1980 I have always meant it to imply that I am not only a lesbian but a transgressive lesbian--femme, masochist, as sexually aggressive as the women I seek out, and as pornographic in my imagination and sexual activities as the heterosexual hegemony has ever believed. "A Question of Class." p. 23
I'd recognized in her face the same look I'd been seeing in other women's faces for all the months since the Barnard Conference on Sexuality (which my friends and I referred to as the Barnard Sex Scandal)--a look of fascination, contempt, and extreme discomfort. "Public Silence, Private Terror." p. 101-02
What will they think twenty years from now of the oral histories of the passing women on file at the Lesbian Herstory Archives? There's no doubt in my mind that the oral histories of working-class dykes and passing women will get far less serious consideration than those of famous artists and rich eccentrics. "A Personal History of Lesbian Porn." p.191 (a blog post of mine that touches on this)