In memoriam: Dr Alida Allison, Russell Hoban scholar

Alida Allison at the Russell Hoban Some-Poasyum, 2005 (photo by Yvonne Studer)This week on Facebook, Alida Allison's niece posted the sad news that Alida passed away on Tuesday, 5th March.

Alida was a wonderful friend as well as a respected and perceptive scholar, and I was so glad to know her. I will miss her tremendously.

Like some others in the Russell Hoban community, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Alida in person at the Hoban convention in London in 2005. 

But I've actually known her for a little over 20 years, because Alida was one of the very first members of the community -- even before it was a community. Alida contacted me not too long after I first launched the original Head of Orpheus website in 1998, and we stayed in pretty much continuous touch from that time on via email, the Kraken Yahoo group, and eventually Facebook.

The academic arm of the Kraken has suffered a major loss with this news. Alida was one of Russell Hoban's most influential and tireless boosters, and over the years she probably did as much as anyone in the academic community to advance the recognition and study of Russ's work.

Alida was a professor at San Diego State University on the Children's Literature Programme, where she actually brought Russ to give a lecture in 1990. You can see videos of this on YouTube, courtesy of Olaf Schneider's channel. 

When she first contacted me in the summer of 1998, Alida was in the process of working on the book she edited about Russ. Entitled Russell Hoban/Forty Years: Essays on His Writings for Children, it was eventually published by Routledge in 2000 and gathers together a wealth of critical and scholarly writing. It's still available on Amazon, including a Kindle edition.

A short biography of Alida on the SDSU website said that Alida was born in 1948 in Brooklyn, New York, had a happy childhood in Palm Springs, California, and undertook three different majors as an undergrad at SDSU in the 1960s before dropping out to spend two years hitchhiking to India. In the early 1970s, she and her husband worked for the American Friends Service Committee (Quaker Service) as Hong Kong Representatives, travelling frequently to wartime Vietnam. She received a degree in English with a speciality in Creative Writing from SDSU in the early 1980s, and at the same time was writing children's books. Doctoral study in Comparative Literature was completed in 1990 at UC Riverside, the same year she began teaching at SDSU as a children's/YA literature specialist. As well as articles and conference presentations, she published three academic books, on academic publishing and the children's stories of I.B. Singer, in addition to the Hoban book mentioned above.

I've been kind of reeling from this today. I keep thinking: first Lindsay Edmunds, now Alida. But I like to think that the two of them have staked out a corner booth for the Kraken somewhere in the afterlife, with a stack of books and some good coffee or tea, continuing the conversation. And they've probably already got Russ scheduled to stop in and give a reading.

- Dave Awl

Dave Awl established the first Russell Hoban website The Head of Orpheus in 1998 as well as The Kraken online community

The 2005 Russell Hoban convention website is at

Photo courtesy of Yvonne Studer