Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review: Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

Description from Goodreads
With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

My Review
I, like most people, have become obsessed with Orange Is The New Black. I have now watched Season 1 through twice, and I am anxiously awaiting June 6th, when the 2nd Season is released. But I really, really wanted to pick up her book and check it out. I know the show is loosely based on the book, so I wasn't expecting it to be a replica of the show or anything like that. But I still wanted to check it out, to get to know the real Piper, and about her real experiences. 

Piper Kerman was reckless as a young girl, and carried a suitcase full of drug money for her girlfriend at the time. Years later, she is now with a man and gets indicted on drug charges. She spends the next 5 years just waiting, until, finally, she gets her orders to surrender.

I think Piper's time in prison probably taught her a lot, but much like the show, I was far more interested in the cast of characters surrounding her than about Piper herself. And that's nothing against Piper Kerman, but she's not your "typical" prisoner, which she pretty much states herself- she has a job, a home, and a fiance to return home to, while many of the women are going to be homeless or live in women's shelters, will have a hard time finding a job, and have been "in" so long, they don't know what the world is like.
Women like Pop, who have been in prison for 10 years, who have no idea what the world is like now. Who don't know what they'll have when they're on the "outs". It broke my heart to read their stories.

Most of the names in the story are changed, except for Sister Ardeth Platt and Alice Gerard, who gave permission to have their real names used. I find this a fascinating thing because they weren't actually in the story as much as Pop, or Delicious, or Natalie. 

To me, the story as a whole is complete, but what's missing to me is a more complete epilogue- I want to know if Piper is in contact with any of the women from prison. There are rules about a probationary period, but those are long past, which she states herself in the book.

I don't know that as many people would have read this book if it had been written by anyone but Piper Kerman (mostly privileged white woman writing about her time in federal prison), but I, for one, am glad I took the time to step away from the show and read her story. Because it gave me the opportunity to read about what prison is like for these women, how many are just trapped there for the most minor of infractions, and the lack of everything they have, both "in" and "out". And the statistics she relays about the amount of women in prison from the 1980s to now is just astounding.  

If you're a fan of the show, or even if you're just intrigued about our prison system and how it really is, I would highly recommend checking out this book. 

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. You can purchase a copy of this book for Kindle here, or a physical copy here. Or you can borrow it from your local library, like I did!

FTC: I borrowed this book from my local library. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
This post does contain Amazon Affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.


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  2. Hi, I am the Alice who is mentioned in the book. I'm the protester who had that nightmarish experience with that "teacher." I have been in contact with Piper through Facebook. She has a fan page there for her book. She wrote a good book, even though she was pretty clueless about my reasons for protesting at the "School of the Americas" (School of the Assassins) and just seemed to think that I protested because I was a "pacifist."
    I have a blog, called Alice's Grand Adventures, which you can find at http://alicesgrandadventures.blogspot.com/

    1. Thanks for your comment, Alice! I look forward to reading more about you and your blog!

  3. Piper's story is at times upsetting and at other times amusing. She's a courageous woman and the memoir is a gift to readers and an inspiration. Its truth will open your eyes to unfair treatment, lack of rehabilitation and repeated frustrations within the U.S. prison system. Orange is the New Black is at turns daunting, authentic, provocative and spellbinding. The best part is that it's about women from all different backgrounds bonding to endure a miserable situation.

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