Book Review | Being Lolita: A Memoir by Alisson Wood

WOW!  This is one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve read.  Unique, poignant, and impactful—I could NOT put this book down.


“‘Have you ever read Lolita?’

So begins seventeen-year-old Alisson’s metamorphosis from student to lover and then victim. A lonely and vulnerable high school senior, Alisson finds solace only in her writing—and in a young, charismatic English teacher, Mr. North. He praises her as a special and gifted writer, and she blossoms under his support and his vision for her future.

Mr. North gives Alisson a copy of Lolita to read, telling her it is a beautiful story about love. The book soon becomes the backdrop to a relationship that blooms from a simple crush into a forbidden romance, with Mr. North convincing her that theirs is a love affair rivaled only by Nabokov’s masterpiece. But as time progresses and his hold on her tightens, Alisson is forced to evaluate how much of that narrative is actually a disturbing fiction.

In the wake of what becomes a deeply abusive relationship, Alisson is faced again and again with the story of her past, from rereading Lolita in college, to working with teenage girls, to becoming a professor of creative writing. It is only with that distance and perspective that she understands the ultimate power language has had on her—and how to harness that power to tell her own true story.”

I am in awe of the courage and vulnerability it took for Alisson to share her story.  She delves into the dark and disturbing in a poetic and beautifully written memoir. It reads like a literary novel—which kept me enthralled despite the uncomfortable subject matter.

I found the incorporation and examination of Nabokov’s Lolita fascinating. It was expertly interwoven alongside Alisson’s own experiences.  I also love her discussion surrounding language and its impact.  Her choice to refer to Nick as “the teacher” is the perfect example of the power of words—a constant reminder to the reader of the power dynamics within their relationship.

I ended up feeling utterly connected to this novel in so many ways: as I recall my own experiences as a teenage girl; as a woman who has experienced dysfunctional relationships; as a high school teacher; and now, as a mother with a daughter.  So many aspects of Alisson’s story resonated with me.  I was going to say that this is a must-read for young women, but it should really be read by everyone who can handle the content. It speaks to current societal discussions of gender, power, consent and language.

A huge thank you to Alisson for reaching out and sending me an advanced copy of Being Lolita.  She writes: “To create something beautiful from something so terrible is my deepest desire.”  And that she has: a raw, enthralling, and impactful memoir.  She is a true inspiration.

Trigger warnings: sexual & verbal abuse, pedophilia, depression

What are some memoirs that you would recommend reading?

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