Orange Is the New Black
By Piper Kerman
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Source: AmazonWith 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.
Review: It's very rare for me to venture from fiction into nonfiction writing. When I do, though, I tend to stick to memoirs because those read more like a story anyways. While I wasn't much of a fan of the TV of Orange Is the New Black due to the excessive graphic content, I was really intrigued by the concept and decided to give the book a try.
Piper Kerman has come a long way since her brief stint smuggling drug money out of the country for her girlfriend. Now, she has a loving boyfriend, real job, and great friends. The last thing Piper expected was for her past to catch up to her, though, as the police come knocking on her door. After years of awaiting her sentence, Piper finally finds herself sentenced to 15 months in a women's correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut. Piper is thrust into the prison life and has to learn how to navigate a life full of rules and people who couldn't be more different from one another.
Right from the start, I was hooked to Piper's story. How could a woman like her, white and middle class with a successful job and boyfriend, survive prison? Would people take advantage of her? Would she change? From the moment she enters prison, it's an entirely new world and I was so intrigued by all of the people she met and how life in prison really worked. Since I personally have no idea what prison is actually like firsthand and only have knowledge from the media, what Piper experienced was definitely not at all what I was expecting and I was surprised to find myself actually liking the other prisoners. Piper became friends with some strange people, but they all were actually people with lives and families and were not faceless prisoners like we tend to think of.
Not only were the relationships interesting, but so was the system of the correctional facility as a whole. Since Piper was a well educated woman who had a loving family, home, and job lined up for her when she got out, she had a pretty different outlook on prison that many of the other prisoners did. There were definitely a lot of injustices in the prison system and I think since Piper's character was so relatable, those injustices seemed so incredulous. How could they treat women that way? How could they not give them the assistance they need in order to survive when they are released? Piper addresses a lot of issues the criminal system is facing and how she survived it by making friends with the unlikeliest of people in the unlikeliest of places.
While definitely not my typical read, I really enjoyed reading about Piper's experience spending over a year in jail. While probably the scariest experience she's ever had, going to prison completely changed Piper and the way she viewed the world. For an intriguing look at the life of women in prison, you definitely have to pick up Orange Is the New Black. And don't worry, there's absolutely no graphic content that the TV show loves to exploit so you can instead focus on the story and the real issues at hand.