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Issue Date: January 2014 Issue

Most Interesting People 2014: Alissa Nutting

Alissa Nutting


Why she's interesting: The John Carroll University assistant professor wasn't trying to raise eyebrows when she wrote Tampa, the sinister tale of a pedophilic teacher. She was sending a message about how society sees female predators. Cosmopolitan dubbed the breakout novel the most controversial book of the year — and you know anything that makes the sex-crazed magazine blush has got to be juicy.

Word Choice: Nutting wasn't sure about the decision on her career path. "I saw all the occupational hazards of writing as a profession, and those scared me, and they still scare me. But ultimately I couldn't pretend anymore that this wasn't what I needed to do all the time, every day."

Too Cool For School: Nutting's family moved to Florida when she was 12. "I walked into a nest of fire ants the day before junior high started, so in addition to being glow-in-the-dark pale and having, like, an enormous amount of facial hair for a 13-year-old girl, I also had extensive calf acne. So, obviously, I had a ton of friends right away." She later attended high school with Debra LaFave — the middle school teacher arrested for having an affair with a male student, events which influenced the novel.

Growing Pains: While an undergraduate at the University of Florida, she lived with three male roommates. "We thought plumbing was this tool of the patriarchy that kept you down by having a monthly bill. So it was like a really gnarly, disgusting house. It actually got demolished after we moved out. I don't know how much we had to do with that."

Her No. 1 Man: It's not her husband, Shawn. It's the couple's Chihuahua, Rickilicious. The dog — despite being pampered with custom-embroidered clothing and a collection of fleece blankets — likes to urinate on the couple's books out of spite, believes Nutting. "I'm his human slave. It's a totally abusive relationship."

Penny-Pinching: Like many young couples, the Nuttings tried to save as much as possible — especially at their first place in Bridgeport, Texas. "All of the furniture in our apartment was inflatable — an inflatable chair, an inflatable mattress and then one or two rafts that we would blow up to sit in."

The write Side: Given John Carroll University's Catholic tradition, Nutting's Tampa could have created a stir on campus. "Luckily the Jesuit tradition is not about censorship or ignoring or discounting texts that are controversial. Would I teach it in my class? No. But I think we can all agree that adults in college can read what they want to read, so it doesn't affect my life in the classroom."

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