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Episode 45 - Alisson Wood

Photo of Alisson Wood

Photo Credit: Christine Spillane

Content Warning: This week's episode contains frank discussion of an abusive relationship that involved sexual assault. Listeners who find conversation about rape triggering may want to stop listening around the 24:00 minute mark.

Alisson Wood's debut memoir, Being Lolita, which was published this week, destroyed me. It is so beautifully written and very carefully lays out how easy it is for an impressionable young girl to fall victim to a sexual predator. After reading it, I couldn't help but talk about it to anyone who would listen. My husband and best friend will tell you. But I could not help myself. It. Is. Just. That. Good.

Being Lolita tells the story of how one of Alisson's teachers began grooming her for abuse when she was 17. At the time, of course, she doesn't realize that. The teacher, a man in his mid 20s, known in the book as Mr. North, convinced her that theirs was a great love story akin to Nabokov’s Lolita. He hands her the novel and tells her to read it and shares select passages with her. At one point, he begins to call her his Lolita, hence the title of the memoir. But as a high school senior she never finished the novel. It's only when she reads the book as a first-year college student that a professor helps her to realize it's not a love story at all and that Humbert Humbert was an unreliable narrator.

Alisson and I recently talked by phone due to the pandemic. It was obvious that she is a deep thinker and incredibly brave. Writers will particularly enjoy how Alisson, who is now a creative writing professor at NYU, discusses her craft choices. But anyone can appreciate the courage it took for her to tell her story. As Alisson explains, she seeks "to act from a place of strength rather than a place of fear."

Interview Highlights:

Alisson reveals...

- why she didn't view writing this memoir as a choice

- how becoming a teacher has affected the way she views Mr. North

- what she thinks about Lolita today

Click here to listen to the episode. (You can also help the show and Alisson by purchasing the book here.)

We'll send a free copy of Being Lolita to the first listener to reach out to us on Twitter or Facebook to tell us the Toni Morrison novel Alisson mentions as one she reads repeatedly because of its lovely narration and strong character point of view. If you have a won a ReadMore giveaway in the last 90 days, you are ineligible for this giveaway. Or if you and I had a meal together at Chase more than once, you're probably ineligible. ReadMore does not have a friends and family plan! But we'll always have memories of those long walks home to South Campus.

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