Prison Island

A Graphic Memoir

by Colleen Frakes


McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the US, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes’ when she was growing up. Colleen’s parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. The island functioned as a “company town,” where housing was assigned based on rank, and even children’s actions could have an impact on a family’s livelihood: If you broke a rule, your family could be kicked out of their home.

In the graphic memoir Prison Island, Colleen tells her story of growing up on the McNeil Island. Beyond the irregularities of living in a company town near a prison, remote island life posed other challenges to Colleen and her sister. Regular teenage activities like ordering a pizza or going to the movies became extremely complicated endeavors on the island, and the small-town dynamics were amplified by their isolation from surrounding cities. Prison Island tells the story of a typical girl growing up in atypical circumstances using stark, engaging graphic novel panels. It’s a story that is simultaneously familiar and foreign, and readers will be surprised to see parts of themselves in Colleen’s unique experience.

About the author: Colleen Frakes is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and the Center for Cartoon Studies. In 2007 she received a Xeric Grant for her book Tragic Relief. In 2009 she was awarded the Ignatz for “Promising New Talent” for her book Woman King. She has since contributed to numerous comic anthologies and drawn dozens of mini comics. She currently lives in Seattle and works in a library.

Praise for Prison Island:

“Frakes’ memoir draws a beautiful portrait of a truly solitary place. The fact that she appears to have lost her connection to the island at the outset just makes her return that much more affecting in the end.”
-MK Reed, author of Americus and The Cute Girl Network

“This is a charming story that just goes to show that, no matter where you live, a family is a family. I think that Frakes has an endearing drawing style and great enthusiasm for sharing some slice-of-life observations. And she provides a positive and realistic portrait of living in close vicinity to a prison.” –Comics Grinder

“Full of heart, humor and an interesting look at a typical teen living a not so typical life, Prison Island is a fun entry point into the memoir category. It’s also a great book to put into the hands of reluctant readers.”—Teen Librarian Toolbox

“Frakes’s loose b&w cartooning and straightforward dialogue provide a solid sense of both McNeil’s history and the peculiarities of life on a prison island (such as having to lock up pool toys that could potentially be used in an escape). . . the overall tone of the book is nostalgic and melancholy, a highly specific example of the idea that one can’t go home again.”—Publishers Weekly

“[A]n interesting look into a pretty unique childhood, and it’s definitely worth a read for fans of graphic memoirs.”—Stacked Books

Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Zest Books; Original edition (September, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-942186-02-1

Buy Now


Tags: , ,