Alice Sebold Biography

Educator, Poet, Author (1963–)
Alice Sebold is an American writer and bestselling author of the book The Lovely Bones, hailed as the most successful debut novel since Gone With the Wind.


Alice Sebold was born on September 6, 1963, in Madison, Wisconsin. Sebold was brutally raped while a college undergraduate. Her account of the incident became the subject of her memoir, Lucky. Sebold's first novel, The Lovely Bones, debuted in 2002, and proved to be a commercial and critical success. The author's second novel, The Almost Moon, was published in 2007.

Early Years

Born Alice Sebold on September 6, 1963, in Madison, Wisconsin. The daughter of two academic parents, Sebold grew up in a household dominated by dysfunction. Her mother, Jane, was an alcoholic, who suffered severe bouts of panic and anxiety, often leaving Sebold and her older sister Mary to take care of her.

Sebold's father, a Spanish professor, eventually relocated his family to Paoli, Pennsylvania, where Jane worked as a journalist for a small newspaper and he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. To help diffuse the difficulties her home life introduced, the argumentative and sarcastic Sebold took on the role of the "family moron."

"[They] seemed to have more fun, more freedom, and more personality," Sebold has said.

Tragedy Strikes

After high school, Sebold, in an attempt to distance herself from her family, enrolled at Syracuse University in upstate New York in the fall of 1980. But during her first year at the school, Sebold suffered a horrific event that would change her life. While walking back to her dorm one evening, she was brutally attacked and raped in a tunnel. Sebold eventually made it back to her room where friends took her to the hospital. After reporting her case to the police, one of the officers said she was "lucky" to be alive. Not long before, another rape had occurred in the same tunnel where Sebold had been attacked, that had resulted in a woman's death and dismemberment.

Sebold's attacker was eventually apprehended and sentenced to prison but, not surprisingly, finding closure wasn't easy for Sebold. "In my world, I saw violence everywhere," she later wrote. "It was not a song or a dream or a plot point." She was, however, determined to move forward, and returned to Syracuse to finish her degree.

Sebold's immediate post-college years only brought more trauma. Her parents, unable to process what had really happened to their daughter, proved to be of little support. After a failed attempt at graduate school in Texas, Sebold landed in New York City, where she started experimenting with heroin.

But there were some glimmers of hope. While working in an adjunct professorship position at Hunter College, Sebold discovered her gift for teaching. She then relocated to California and took a position as the caretaker of an arts colony. Sebold's living conditions put her in the middle of the woods without electricity, where she learned to embrace solitude.

She also continued to write, experimenting with a novel about the rape and murder of a young girl that she tentatively called Monsters. After some time, Sebold enrolled at University of Irvine for graduate school, where she met her husband, writer Glen David Gold. She graduated with an MFA in 1998.

Commercial Success

The story of Sebold's life and rape became the subject of her first book, a memoir called Lucky. Its name was inspired by the policeman who'd remarked that she was fortunate to be alive following her attack.

Broader fame came in 2002 when The Lovely Bones, a revised and edited incarnation of Sebold's earlier novel about the rape and murder of a young girl, was published. The book, whose narrator tells her story from beyond the grave, shot to the top of most "best" lists in 2002, earning ebullient praise from critics and outpacing the sales from works from more established authors, like Tom Clancy and Stephen King. Some even dared to call it the most successful debut novel since Gone with the Wind.

In addition, the book earned Sebold the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 2002 and the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction the following year. In 2009, a film version of The Lovely Bones, starring Mark Wahlberg and Susan Sarandon, was released.

Five years after The Lovely Bones first hit bookshelves, Sebold published her second novel, The Almost Moon, which tells the story of the murder of an elderly woman by her suburban daughter in a fit of rage.

Personal Life

Alice Sebold lives with her husband in San Francisco.

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!