Book Review: Orange is the New Black
Author: Piper Kerman
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Number of Pages: 298
My Rating: 3
Summary from GoodReads.com:
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.
If you haven’t heard of Orange is the New Black by now, book or Netflix series, I’m going to assume you don’t have technology and have been living under a rock. Then I’m going to immediately wonder how you’re reading this review in the first place.
This story is everywhere at the moment and I have been meaning to read the book for a long time, having been a fan of the Netflix series since it first came out. I will let you know, however, if you are a fan of the TV series that the true life story is very different. I felt that I came into this reading with high expectations and I can’t say that they were met.
Orange is the New Black is a memoir by Piper Kerman about her time spent in a federal women’s prison. Piper is incarcerated due to a drug trafficking charge almost a decade after committing the crime. She is a white, well-educated woman getting thrown into a system in which she has no experience or knowledge. She is terrified. Kerman does a good job describing her decisions which led up to the crime she committed but at times it was somewhat repetitive. It also took years for her charges to go through in which she was able to serve her time and get it over with and I felt like she spent way too much time talking about this waiting period.
Piper self surrenders and turns her self in. The most interesting part of the book is her fear when she is entering the prison and getting received to be put behind bars. Her horror is palpable and you are able to put yourself in her shoes to feel how awful that would be. She sticks to herself a lot in the beginning, just trying to figure out all of the actual rules as well as those that are made by the prisoners in which one must follow.
Overall, Piper has a relatively easy time in prison as she quickly gets in with the “popular” crowd and receives constant letters, books, and visits from her friends and family. While I don’t want to judge too much, as I would never want to be in that situation, it seemed like most of her experience was a walk in the park. She did discuss the downfalls of her specific prison, but most of the time she just laid around and read, if she wasn’t watching movies in her special pajamas or getting fed homemade food by other prisoners.
I’m not going to lie- this book kept me captivated. I was intrigued by the idea of going to a federal prison and getting a glimpse into what that hell would be like. However, I was disappointed by this story as it was very self-focused (I get it, it’s a memoir) and I didn’t really feel like it gave me a true view of what a federal women’s prison would be like. If you’re wanting to compare, give this book a try, otherwise I say just stick to the Netflix series.