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Alice Sebold | Biography

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Alice Sebold was born on September 6, 1963, in the college city of Madison, Wisconsin, where her father was a Spanish professor. Family life in the Sebold household was difficult. Alice's mother, Jane, was addicted to Valium and alcohol and suffered from serious anxiety attacks. Both parents criticized Alice about her weight and compared her unfavorably to her older sister, Mary, whose grades were better than Alice's.

Sebold enrolled at New York's Syracuse University in the fall of 1980. During her first semester there, she was brutally raped in a tunnel on campus. Her assailant beat her badly, took her virginity, and then urinated on her before leaving. When Sebold managed to crawl to safety and was taken to the police station, a police officer told her she was lucky: another young woman had recently been murdered and dismembered in the same tunnel.

Sebold took time off from Syracuse to recover but returned in the fall of 1981 and enrolled in the college's creative writing program. In October 1981, she chanced to see her rapist on the street. She reported him to the police, and the rapist, Gregory Madison, was arrested and brought to trial.

In the late 20th century, rape victims were often treated harshly and accused of having encouraged their attackers. Though Gregory Madison's defense lawyers made the trial very difficult for Sebold, Madison was found guilty and sent to prison. The following year, just before Sebold and her roommate were due to graduate, Sebold's roommate was raped, possibly by a friend of Madison's to avenge the conviction.

After college, Sebold moved to New York City and worked as an adjunct professor at Hunter College, occasionally publishing magazine articles on the side. Her story about her rape appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 1989 and garnered an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Despite the outward trappings of success, Sebold suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and became a heroin addict. Desperate to regain her health, she took a two-month writing fellowship at a rural artists' community in California. After a brief return to New York City, Sebold moved to California and took a caretaking job at the artists' community where she'd stayed. From there, she applied and was accepted to graduate school at the University of California, Irvine.

It was in graduate school that Sebold wrote Lucky, a memoir about her rape, which was published in 1999. There, she also met and married Glen David Gold, a fellow writer in the graduate program at Irvine, and began work on a novel, initially called Monsters, that would become The Lovely Bones.

The Lovely Bones was published in 2002 and became a near-instant sensation, popular with critics as well as the public. For five months it held the first spot on The New York Times best-seller list, and it stayed on the list for more than a year. Sebold won the 2002 Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 2002 and the 2003 American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award. A film version of the novel, directed by Peter Jackson, appeared in 2009. Stanley Tucci, the actor who played Mr. Harvey, was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and the film brought in more than $93 million worldwide.

Sebold's second novel, The Almost Moon, was published in 2007. Its plot concerns a suburban woman who suddenly murders her elderly mother. The Almost Moon fared less well than The Lovely Bones, but it did reach number one on the Times best-seller list, and many critics praised its Gothic mood and black humor.

Alice Sebold and her husband live in San Francisco, California.

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