Published by Spiegel & Grau on March 8, 2011
Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
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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.
I picked up a copy of Orange is the New Black at my library’s spring book sale last month because 1) I like non-fiction, and it seems to be one of the very few things that can still draw me in while I’m in this god-awful book slump and 2) I wanted to see how it faired to the TV show.
When I first heard about the TV show I was slightly curious. My mother said she wanted us to try it out as one of our new shows, but upon further investigation, I discovered it was not really the kind of show I was comfortable watching with my family, haha! Over the next year or so though, I kept hearing how great of a show it was, from the great acting to the complex lives of the female characters, and I was loving what I was seeing on my Tumblr dashboard, so I figured I’d give it a shot in the frigid months of January and February. Tumblr was right (really, has it failed me before on TV shows? Nope), of course, and I’m now anxiously awaiting Season 3!
But back to Kerman’s memoir. I think is the case of the TV adaption being way better than its source material (could it really shine without the amazing presence of Laverne Cox though?), although Orange is the New Black isn’t a bad read, not at all. It held my attention and was informative and funny. I didn’t really learn a whole lot more than I already knew about the prison system though, and I think illustrating statistics among the system via each character’s lived experiences on the TV show works better than having Kerman rattle off information about race, class, sexuality within the prison industrial complex. One thing that I did like compared to the TV series was that Larry was much less annoying, haha!
Overall, a solid read but it doesn’t hold a flame to the TV show!