Eyewitness on Alcatraz: True Stories of Families Who Lived on the Rock

Jolene Babyak, Author Ariel Vamp Press $10.95 (127p) ISBN 978-0-9618752-0-6
As a child of seven, Babyak went to live on ``The Rock'' in the 1950s. Her father, Arthur Dollison, was office manager of the prison's industries and later associate warden. Through interviews with former employees and their families, Babyak compiles a series of inside reminiscences that excludes readers. Dull and gray, like imagined prison walls, the prose is replete with restrictions (``Women and children were forbidden on the shoreline during daylight hours while prisoners were out of their cells. Families were not permitted dogs or cats'') and with ordinary events like fishing (when the water on the west side of the island teemed with bass and ``you could not get your line back without a fish on it''). Perhaps Babyak describes the crux of her book's problem when she admits, ``Seemingly ordinary concerns took on exaggerated meaning on an island prison,'' or when she explains that ``because our fathers felt that few outsiders understood their problems, prison people often remained insulated. Vacations in our household tended to include tours to other prisons . . . '' She provides sparse, dry reports on escapes and attempted escapes, hints vaguely at complex prisoner-guard relationships and repeatedly fails to delve into potentially fascinating material. Photos. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1988
Release date: 07/01/1988
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