She has contributed to Conditions, the Village Voice, the New York Native, and the Voice Literary Supplement.
Allison is a member of the board of International PEN.
That year she founded and endowed the Independent Spirit Award (not to be confused with the Independent Spirit Awards).
The award, administered by the Astraea Foundation, is an annual prize given to an individual whose work within the small press and independent bookstore circuit has helped sustain that enterprise.
In 1988, Allison published Trash: Short Stories, a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories. The book was inspired by a negative review of Mab Segrest's collection of essays, My Mama's Dead Squirrel, that infuriated Allison, who was repulsed by reviewer's use of words like "white trash" and his insulting attitude toward Southerners.
To dispel the stereotype that Southerners were stupid, brain-damaged, or morally lacking, she spent the next two years writing Trash. It was later adapted as a film of the same name, directed by Anjelica Huston for TNT.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.In 2002, Allison released a new edition of Trash, adding a new short-story, "Compassion," which was selected for the 2003 editions of both The Best American Short Stories and The Best New Stories from the South.In 2007, Allison announced that she was working on a new novel entitled She Who, to be published by Riverhead Press.Graphic in its depiction of Southern poverty, family ties, illegitimacy, child abuse, and rape, Bastard won the Ferro Grumley and Bay Area Reviewers Award for fiction.The novel has been translated into more than a dozen languages.Ruth eventually married, but when Dorothy was five, her stepfather began to abuse her sexually. At age 11 Allison told a relative about it, who told her mother.Ruth forced her husband to leave the girl alone, and the family remained together.The respite did not last long, as the stepfather resumed the sexual abuse, continuing for five years.Allison suffered mentally and physically, contracting gonorrhea that was not diagnosed and treated until she was in her 20s.