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A Child Out Of Alcatraz

A Child Out Of Alcatraz

4.3 3
by Tara Ison

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“Searingly original, brutal, unique. Tara Ison is unquestionably an important new voice in American fiction.” —Carolyn See, author of The Handyman

“A fascinating and wonderfully evocative first novel about life on Alcatraz – seen through the eyes of a little girl growing up on the Rock in the 1950s. A compelling story, richly


“Searingly original, brutal, unique. Tara Ison is unquestionably an important new voice in American fiction.” —Carolyn See, author of The Handyman

“A fascinating and wonderfully evocative first novel about life on Alcatraz – seen through the eyes of a little girl growing up on the Rock in the 1950s. A compelling story, richly evoking a time and place.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ison has a gift…the fearsome plight of Olivia, who narrates much of the novel, is never simplified. It’s through her radiant consciousness that Ison’s novel achieves a natural, basic morality.” —Publishers Weekly

“Disturbing, dark, and original. A stunning first novel.” —Feminist Bookstore News

“What makes A Child out of Alcatraz particularly memorable is its unique venue…the author paints a searing portrait of an American family that might have been typical had fate and history not intervened.” —Glamour

“This is a sad, often beautiful novel… Ison renders the slow disintegration of a once-vital woman, and its effect on her daughter, with perfect heartbreaking despair. A provocative story.” —Boston Book Review

“A Child out of Alcatraz is an energetic, captivating novel…we are left wanting more of her because that voice—so rare and flawless—is a crystalline sound one doesn’t want to end.” —Bloomsbury Review

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Foreverland Press
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Meet the Author

Tara Ison is the author of two novels: THE LIST, and A CHILD OUT OF ALCATRAZ, a Finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the forthcoming short story collection BALL. Her short fiction, essays, poetry and book reviews have appeared numerous journals, magazines, newspapers and anthologies. She is also the co-writer of the cult film Don't Tell Mom The Babysitter's Dead. Ison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, a COLA Individual Artist Grant, multiple Yaddo fellowships, a Rotary Foundation Scholarship for International Study, a Brandeis National Women's Committee Award, a Thurber House Fiction Writer-in-Residence Fellowship, the Simon Blattner Fellowship from Northwestern University, and a California Arts Council Artists' Fellowship Award. Ison received her MFA in Fiction & Literature from Bennington College. She has taught Fiction and Screenwriting at Washington University in St. Louis, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Goddard College, Antioch University, UC Riverside's MFA Program in Creative Writing, and Bennington College. She is currently Assistant Professor of Fiction in Arizona State University's creative writing program. For more info, see: www.taraison.com. She can be reached at: info(at)taraison.com

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A Child Out of Alcatraz 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book keeps your attention. Everyone should read it.
mkpetersonMP More than 1 year ago
What spoke to me most clearly was the last paragraph of the acknowledgments, the last page of the book: Ison had interviewed a man about growing up on Alcatraz who wanted her to write a book about him. She said it would be the little girl's point of view, which he scoffed at, saying girls had no story. Only the boys had fun. So, of course, Ison had to tell Olivia's story. In the same vein, the prison guard/father never understands his wife has needs different from his, thinks she has a cushy life with not much to do but raise the kids. (!!!!!) But of course the wife is a prisoner of Alcatraz also, away from things she loves, no way to grow. And her deterioration affects all the children, especially the tender youngest who comes to think she must be bad bad bad living in such a Hellish place.
Maenad More than 1 year ago
Amid the crackle of machine gun fire, the occasional blare of the escape siren, and rocky beaches that offer no solace in the summer, the children of Alcatraz frolic and romp in a playground 100 yards away from the infamous federal penitentiary. The bleak island is a daunting yet formidable setting for A Child Out of Alcatraz by Tara Ison, in which the plight of mother and daughter unfolds during the prison's history. To Olivia Thornton, growing up on Alcatraz is reflective of her family life: a mish mash of dysfunctional inmates who repeatedly attempt to escape. Only her siblings' warden is their regimented father and lethargic mother and their attempts to escape are successful; her older sister flees the island at eighteen to wed; her unruly brother is whisked away to military school in hopes of curbing his deliquency. For Vivian, Olivia's mother, the island emits a self imposed duty of the June Cleaver mode, everyday struggling with a role she fills ineptly, her potential taunting her with self deprecating defeat. Vivian is the only child in a Jewish family who actively campaign for progressive party members, support the ACLU, and empower their daughter with individuality and the drive to succeed. After Vivian graduates high school in California, her parents pack her up in a brand new Chrysler Plymouth and send her cross country to attend the University of Wisconsin. For all her intellectual prowess, Vivian lacked social acceptance in her childhood. Therefore, when Arthur, a student at the University of Chicago, introduces Vivian to her ideals of a relationship outside of her family, she abandons college to marry Arthur. The self proclaimed "man of the house," Arthur thwarts any ideas Vivian has of seeking employment to help with the finances. So Arthur, too, abandons college to support his wife and growing family by working two jobs. The Thornton family is inducted to Alcatraz after WWII, with Arthur accepting a job as a prison guard, towing their two children and again pregnant Vivian with him. When Olivia is born on Alcatraz in 1945, Vivian perceives her as a gift, a companion, someone to fill the void that being a housewife has given her. The years of Olivia's early childhood allow Vivian to have a flippant but much needed social interaction with children she was scholastically denied. Yet when Olivia starts the commute to grade school in San Francisco, Vivian's fantasy of reinventing her childhood dissolves and so begins the downward spiral of mother and child: Vivian glancing at what she could have been and Olivia ineptly mingling with San Francisco classmates. A Child Out of Alcatraz weaves a luminous tale of a woman in the 90's trapped in the era of the 50's, with a child's interminable desire to be needed and accepted. Ison deftly offsets the story with snippets of information that seemingly provide factual information on the history of Alcatraz. From the disdainful opening of the penitentiary in 1934, to the many bumbled escape attempts, and finally the shutdown of Alcatraz in 1963, the rise, peak, and eventual fall of the prison reflects the transformation of Vivian and Olivia in a way that is bleak but enchanting as the island itself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago