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Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

by Piper Kerman

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3,8362653,163 (3.62)198
Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML:

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 ago. 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 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.… (more)

  1. 20
    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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» See also 198 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 269 (next | show all)
Going to prison isn't so bad if you're perky! Disappointing. I heard the author interviewed on WNYC (probably Leonard Lopate) and thought her story might be interesting. I'll take Ted Connover any day. ( )
  monicaberger | Jan 22, 2024 |
I admit, I only discovered this book because of the show. If you're buying it expecting a similar experience you will be disappointed. For me though, while the book is different, it's equally enjoyable, just in a different way. It's an interesting look into the prison system with humor and grace. Yes, you will recognize some of the characters (although some have different names than the show) and incidents but it is obviously not a chapter/episode match up. I found it enjoyable. ( )
  b00kdarling87 | Jan 7, 2024 |
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.

( )
  thisisstephenbetts | 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 | 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 | Oct 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 269 (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
First words
International baggage claim in the Brussels airport was large and airy, with multiple carousels circling endlessly.
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Biography & Autobiography. Nonfiction. HTML:

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 ago. 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 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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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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