She credits "militant feminists" for encouraging her decision to write. Allison held a wide variety of jobs before gaining any success as a writer.
She worked as a salad girl, a maid, a nanny, a substitute teacher, and helped establish a feminist bookstore in Florida.
The untreated disease left her unable to have children.
Allison's family moved to central Florida to escape debt.
Allison's book Trash: Short Stories was first published in 1988 by Firebrand Books.
Revised editions were published by Penguin (1990) and Plume (2002) with additional short stories such as "Compassion" and "Deciding to Live.In November 1997, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a State Board of Education decision to ban the book in public high schools because of its graphic content.In 1998, Allison published Cavedweller, which received numerous awards.French literary scholar, Mélanie Grué, describes Allison's work as a celebration of "the vilified transgressive lesbian body." Allison released an updated and extended version of her 1983 poetry collection, The Women Who Hate Me, in 1991, published by the feminist publishing house, Firebrand Books.Allison's first novel, the semi-autobiographical Bastard Out of Carolina (1992), was one of five finalists for the 1992 National Book Award.Cavedweller, Allison's second novel, was published in 1998 and became a New York Times bestseller.Cavedweller has been adapted for the stage and screen, most notably in the 2004 film of the same name starring Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, directed by Lisa Cholodenko.The book and film both generated controversy because of the graphic content, and the TV film was aired on Showtime rather than TNT.The Canadian Maritime Film Classification Board initially banned distribution of the film in Canada, but it was reversed on appeal.It won 1989 Lambda Literary Awards for "Best Lesbian Small Press Book" and "Best Lesbian Fiction".Influences include Toni Morrison, Bertha Harris, and Audre Lorde.