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Orange is the New Black: My Year in a…
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Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison (2010)

by Piper Kerman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,4372163,633 (3.63)180
  1. 30
    A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars by Cristina Rathbone (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Orange Is The New Black, Piper Kerman's memoir of her year behind bars, and A World Apart, Cristina Rathbone's incisive investigation into the experience of women in prison, offer vivid accounts of modern American incarceration.
  2. 20
    Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael G. Santos (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The violence, boredom, alliances, and chaos of prison life, along with portraits of the incarcerated individuals who constitute the communities behind bars, are brought to life by two inmates in Inside and Orange Is The New Black.
  3. 10
    Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time by Susan Madden Lankford (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: A large format book about females prisoners and the people responsible for them, full of wonderful black and white photographs and the stories to go with them.
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English (216)  French (1)  All languages (217)
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
This book was remarkably enjoyable to read. The writing is light and breezy, and it’s very well written, though not beautifully written; it’s a very straightforward account.

Even though the author was so much more privileged than a typical women inmate, I got a good feel for not only her experiences but those of the even more unfortunate inmates.

I learned a lot about life on the inside. One main thing is if you’re a nice person and you treat others well and you’re open to relationships with others, you will find community anywhere. I was very touched so many times.

The American prison system is so absurd. This author did not belong in prison. The situation is almost laughable. Give people such as her many hours of community service. Well, she got a book out of it. But for the many other women who also pose no real threat to society who are written about in this book, there are other, better options. The number of people is prison is ridiculous, as is the percentage of Americans who’ve been incarcerated.

Humans are humans everywhere so it did not surprise me to see all the personality types, lifestyles, ways of coping, etc. match life outside to that of people in the prison, not to mention the various insane ways of doing or not doing things. Absurd rules and situations abounded.

I’d forgotten that Martha Stewart did not get her wish to be in Danbury so I kept wondering if she’d show up.

One thing I found most amazing/disgusting is how laundry detergent is dispensed to Danbury women’s camp inmates for free, and menstrual supplies are present in abundance, enough so that they’re multiuse, but everything else, including soap, toothpaste, and other such things have to be bought in the commissary, with either prison earnings (for many women) or money sent from the outside.

Also, the amount it costs to keep each prisoner incarcerated is ridiculous. For most violent offenders and a few others, that’s where they need to be. For all others, there are many other better options, for treatment/rehabilitation and/or punishment.

I would not survive, I don’t think. But I love seeing (in all the prison books I’ve read) how the new normal of being incarnated simply becomes people’s new lifestyles, and full lives are lived by the majority of prisoners. They might not be as satisfying and are certainly more restricted than most, but people adapt beautifully, for the most part.

The author is atypical, though not unique, re her level of education, her high socioeconomic status, her tremousdous amount of support from her fiancée and family and friends, having a love of reading and books, and having many, many books sent to her, having a tremendous amount of support from the outside, and having a relatively short sentence. She acknowledges all this, and makes clear she’s luckier than most. If she hadn’t continually professed these facts, I’d have had an incredibly hard time reading this book. But I appreciated the author’s honesty about herself and I was touched when she came to see the harm she did to others when she committed her crime, and because she was giving and has empathy for others and made the best of her situation, she comes across to me as very likeable, even though in the outside world I don’t think she’s “my kind” of person.

Some thoughts as I read: We must do away with these silly mandatory federal minimum sentences. It’s ridiculous to be incarcerated for a this kind of crime committed a decade earlier and when the person self-surrenders. What a waste, for everybody. There is a shockingly poor standard of living but not as bad as for some not in prison, and the women definitely tweaked the system. No psychiatric care and awful medical care, and the vast majority of the women get released so unprepared to succeed. Lousy food. At one point when I was an omnivore I might have survived. They did have (inedible) tvp for the vegetarians and a sort of salad bar. I think in minimum security women’s prisons more of the staff should be women, and the men should be better screened!! Absurd minimum wage, given that inmates have to buy their own basic items, especially for those without a diploma/GED, 14¢ an hour, and the commissary prices are extremely inflated.

The account has funny parts galore, due to the ludicrousness of the situations of those connected to "the camp" in Danbury.

The last chapter, titled It Can Always Get Worse, and other parts, especially parts at the end and beginning, really touched me.

Very readable and interesting and hard to put down.

Our system needs a big overhaul in my opinion.

4 ½ stars ( )
  Lisa2013 | Aug 9, 2018 |
Piper Kerman's memoir, Orange Is The New Black, chronicles just about a year of doing time at a minimum security women's prison in New England. This book was the basis of the Netflix show of the same name, but it's a very different piece of media. Like any memoir, it's rooted in the author's personal experience. So while many of the characters, and even some of the incidents, will be familiar to those who watch the show, the book is really all about Piper.

Which, for me at least, worked just fine. She doesn't spend much time dwelling on her crime, but rather focuses her attention on what it actually means to be a prisoner. What comes through the most strongly is the dehumanization, going from being a person with autonomy to a number at the mercy of the system. There's virtually no privacy, there are strip searches required for every visit with someone from the outside world, the smallest concessions are subject to the capricious whims of prison officials. While many of the women are due to be released relatively soon, there's no meaningful rehabilitation or real preparation to be re-integrated into the outside world.

It really makes you think about what the point of prison actually is. Kerman's case, in particular, was a crime that was nearly a decade behind her by the time she actually saw the inside of a cell. She had long since ceased to be a threat to society, so protecting the world from her by putting her away clearly wasn't the point. The near-total neglect of actual education or career prep that might enable women to be able to quickly secure a job that might keep them out of the kinds of situations that landed them in prison in the first place shows that rehabilitation isn't what's going on. Our ever-growing prison population shows that deterrence isn't working. So it's just punitive then. And what point does that actually serve? Do most people feel like it's a moral victory to imprison low-level drug offenders, with all the costs that it entails?

Kerman is a good writer, and is more sympathetic than her television portrayal would suggest. She accepts her guilt for her crime, and while she's certainly surprised and upset that her brief stint with crime comes back to haunt her years later, once she's gotten used to the idea, she's mostly regretful about the impact it has on her family and loved ones. She takes the reader inside a world that most of us won't ever experience, and renders it with empathy and humor. This is a solid read, and as long as you're not expecting it to be just like the show, I'd definitely recommend it. ( )
  500books | May 22, 2018 |
A quick read that is both comical and enlightening. ( )
  BATGRLGOTHAMCITY | Apr 27, 2018 |
It is interesting having read the book after four seasons of the Netflix show bearing the same title. Most of the characters have different names in the book and the TV show, which at first really upset me. I just don't feel like some of the names Piper chose fit her characters- which is probably why the show creators changed them. Additionally, I did not feel like the book told a dynamic story of life in prison. I felt like it was one (privileged) woman lamenting about her experience. One thing the television show does very well is highlight current issues with the prison system, which I think Piper tried to do, but failed. I think I would recommend this book to others, particularly those that have watched the show, because it is an interesting look at prison life. ( )
  BEGivens | Mar 21, 2018 |
Really well written. Funny and poignant and real. I wanted to read this because I liked the netflix series, and I'm glad I read it even though the show is vastly different from the book. ( )
  SoubhiKiewiet | Mar 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 216 (next | show all)
An absorbing, look at life behind bars.
added by khuggard | editBooklist, Kristine Huntley
 
Kerman's account radiates warmly from her skillful depiction of the personalities she befriended in prison
added by khuggard | editPublishers Weekly
 
But if you pick up Kerman's book looking for a realistic peek inside an American prison, you will be disappointed. Orange Is the New Black belongs in a different category, the middle-class-transgression genre.
 
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Epigraph
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

- from "Anthem" by Leonard Cohen
Dedication
To Larry
To my mother and father
And to Pop
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International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly.
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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 10 years ago. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to 15 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 women 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, where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated. 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, Orange is the New Black 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.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385523386, Hardcover)

A compelling, often hilarious, and unfailingly compassionate portrait of life inside a women’s prison
 
When Piper Kerman was sent to prison for a ten-year-old crime, she barely resembled the reckless young woman she’d been when, shortly after graduating Smith College, she’d committed the misdeeds that would eventually catch up with her.Happily ensconced in a New York City apartment, with a promising career and an attentive boyfriend, she was suddenly forced to reckon with the consequences of her very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking. 

Kerman spent thirteen months in prison, eleven of them at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, where she met a surprising and varied community of women living under exceptional circumstances. In Orange Is the New Black, Kerman tells the story of those long months locked up in a place with its own codes of behavior and arbitrary hierarchies, where a practical joke is as common as an unprovoked fight, and where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated.

Revealing, moving, and enraging, Orange Is the New Black offers a unique perspective on the criminal justice system, the reasons we send so many people to prison, and what happens to them when they’re there.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:55 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When Piper Kerman was sent to prison for a ten-year-old crime, she barely resembled the reckless young woman she'd been when she committed the misdeeds that would eventually catch up with her. Happily ensconced in a New York City apartment, with a promising career and an attentive boyfriend, she was suddenly forced to reckon with the consequences of her very brief, very careless dalliance in the world of drug trafficking. Kerman spent thirteen months in prison, eleven of them at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, where she met a surprising and varied community of women living under exceptional circumstances. Kerman tells the story of those long months locked up in a place with its own codes of behavior and arbitrary hierarchies, where a practical joke is as common as an unprovoked fight, and where the uneasy relationship between prisoner and jailer is constantly and unpredictably recalibrated.… (more)

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