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About the Author

Piper Kerman was born in Boston on September 28, 1969 and graduated from Smith College in 1992. Despite the advantages of her education and successful family background, she became involved in money laundering and drug trafficking, and would eventually serve 13 months of a 15-month sentence in the show more Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. Kerman's memoir about her time in prison, entitled Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison, was published in 2010. The book was adapted by Jenji Kohan into an Emmy and Peabody award-winning series on Netflix. She currently serves on the board of the Women's Prison Association and is a vocal advocate for Justice Reform. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

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Works by Piper Kerman


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Common Knowledge

Places of residence
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Smith College
communications consultant
Short biography
Piper Eressea Kerman (born September 28, 1969) is an American author who was indicted in 1998, on charges of felonious money-laundering activities, and sentenced to 15 months' detention in a federal correctional facility, of which she eventually served 13 months. Her memoir of her prison experiences, Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, was adapted into the critically acclaimed Netflix original comedy-drama series Orange Is the New Black. Since leaving prison, Kerman has spoken widely about women in prison and about her own experiences there. She now works as a communication strategist for non-profit organizations.

Kerman was born in Boston into a family with a number of attorneys, doctors and educators. She graduated from Swampscott High School in Swampscott, Massachusetts, in 1987, and Smith College in 1992. She is a self-described WASP, with a paternal grandfather who was Russian-Jewish.

In 1998, Kerman was indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking and she pled guilty. Starting in 2004, she served 13 months of a 15-month sentence at FCI Danbury, a minimum security prison located in Danbury, Connecticut.



We were watching the TV show of the same name, and though I enjoyed it a lot, I kept thinking "I can't believe the book is like this." And sure enough, it's not. The book is far less sensationalist, far less dramatic, with far less intrigue than the book. The book itself is measured and mature, and shows a degree of introspection and a capacity for growth that the TV Piper has not yet demonstrated. It considers the flaws of the prison service, and how they fail their inmates and hence society - in short, it at least starts to grapple with some complex issues constructively, from an unusual point of view.

The book is actually a lot more life-affirming than the show, and mostly dwells on the ways that Kerman keeps her morale up. This is through small positive things (like running, reading, making microwave cheesecake) and of course through the friendships she establishes (sometimes against the odds). There is a slight issue here in that she ends up making the experience sound more pleasant than she is at pains to explain that it is, but that is, I believe, partly due to her steering clear of the people that she disliked (both in prison and in the book).

What the show has done is take a few tiny kernels of ideas, and then extrapolated from that, amping up the drama by orders of magnituded. Throw-away sentences become multi-episode story-arcs.

On one level, this is fine. The book as is would have made a worthy documentary about a women's correctional facility, but it would not have made a hit TV show. I'm totally okay with both versions coexisting. Except! Except that so many of the characters in the show are recognisable from the book - some even have the same names (which, admittedly, were changed in the book, but must surely still be recognisable) - and in the show some of them have done horrible things. I don't mind Piper's family and in-laws being portrayed as worse than in real life, as presumably she can explain to them, and they can laugh over the royalties and a cocktail. But it seems really harsh to have a poor inmate having a horrendous backstory appended to them.

Maybe Kerman went round and squared it all off with everyone, and my concern is undeserved. And, either way, it is not a fault of the book. Still, for better or worse, and hopefully not overshadowing the serious points that the book makes, it is one of the more intriguing things about it.

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thisisstephenbetts | 262 other reviews | Nov 25, 2023 |
This is a remarkable book. The author never wallows in self pity or anger and shows a remarkable capacity for empathy and understanding for her fellow prisoners. There is no stereotyping or judging just beautifully drawn characters all treated with dignity and respect. I couldn't put this book down. Highly recommended.
secondhandrose | 262 other reviews | Oct 31, 2023 |
I could not develop a connection with Piper. She was an adult with a university education, looking for excitement. She knew she was committing a crime. She needed to sacrifice and pay the penalty.
I wasn't sure that she ever understood how serious it was to be involved with the drug cartel. She needed more experiences with drug addicts to really 'get it'.
bettyroche | 262 other reviews | Oct 28, 2023 |
I was utterly enthralled by every page of this book. From the beginning, as Piper described the series of bad choices that landed her in prison 10 years later, to the very last page, I was deeply moved by Piper's story. Her writing is visceral and endearing, both deeply relatable and incredibly fascinating.

But it was the strength of female friendships, the prisoners' strong wills and deep humanity that moved me the most. I appreciated the in-depth look at the culture and bonds that develop in prison, and I loved getting to know each woman in turn through Piper's eyes.

I was intrigued by the Netflix show, but learning that they took great liberties with the truth discouraged me from seeking it out. I loved the book too much to have it tainted by a fictional and sensationalized account of life behind bars.
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Elizabeth_Cooper | 262 other reviews | Oct 27, 2023 |



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