A dark romance evolves between a high schooler and her English teacher in this breathtakingly powerful memoir about a young woman who must learn to rewrite her own story.
“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.
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 connection that blooms from a simple crush into a forbidden romance. But as Mr. North’s hold on her tightens, Alisson is forced to evaluate how much of their 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.
Being Lolita is a stunning coming-of-age memoir that shines a bright light on our shifting perceptions of consent, vulnerability, and power. This is the story of what happens when a young woman realizes her entire narrative must be rewritten—and then takes back the pen to rewrite it.
At seventeen, Alisson is hoping to find someone who can help lift her out of the dark depths of her endless depression. Day after day, she’s late for the bell and left to wander the halls of Hunt High School searching for a sanctuary. And she finds it not with another student but with her English teacher.
Mr. North seems to understand exactly what she’s going through. He takes her under his wing and nurtures her talents and aspirations. In his classroom, she finally feels seen. And then one day, he reads to her from a copy of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov and nothing is ever the same again.
The relationship that follows defines Alisson’s life in ways that she could never imagine. Until she finally begins to understand that what she thought was love as lonely young girl is actually something far more sinister.
There is a long history of loneliness in literature. Of loneliness as a prerequisite to love. Almost like you can’t really love someone unless you’ve been alone and loveless for a long time. At least, if you’re a woman. Almost as if this protracted alone time is a purification, prepares a girl to be worthy of a man’s love. Think of the Greek myths, the Odyssey—Calypso dancing sorcery alone on her island, Penelope waiting twenty years for her wandering husband to return. Think of our fairy tales, the stories we tell our daughters before we put them into bed: of Cinderella toiling in the dust before she can be fitted for those slippers, of Rapunzel living in a tower with only her long hair as silent company. And then her prince comes to rescue her.
Being Lolita is nothing like a fairy tale. I think that I read the entire book while holding my breath because I was just like Alisson in High School. A girl too mentally exhausted to even bother making friends or fit in anymore. My interests were books and music – not the prom and boys. I was vulnerable and lost. It could have happened to me.
Alisson details her journey from victim to warrior in a smart lyrical style. She lays bare her soul to tell a terrible truth. All the while, she masterfully draws parallels to the work of Lolita itself. And it makes the experience of this book so raw and true that it demands you pay attention.