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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 (original 2010; edition 2011)

by Piper Kerman (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,7182273,406 (3.63)188
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)
Member:mfigroid
Title:Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Authors:Piper Kerman (Author)
Info:Spiegel & Grau (2011), 327 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Read in 2016, Bio / Autobio / Memoir

Work details

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

  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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» See also 188 mentions

Honest and open, Kerman's memoir makes prison sound almost pleasant at times, which makes her book about her year in minimum-security confinement unlike most prison stories out there. ( )
  Birdo82 | Oct 4, 2019 |
Like many, I am obsessed with the TV show that this memoir inspired, so when I found the book in a local store, I became ecstatic. I was warned that the book wouldn't be quite the same as the show and that I shouldn't get my hopes up too high, but as I found myself enthralled in the midst of Season 4, I decided it was time to match my reading material and what I was watching. I found that, hopes still held high, I was not disappointed.

This book was fascinating, both for a fan of the show and in general. It was awesome to see the characters I already knew and loved in their real-life setting. Yes, some names had been changed between the book and show, and yes, most names had been changed between the book and real life, but it was easy to discern in a lot of cases who was supposed to be who. I was also impressed by how many plot points throughout the show, including even the trial of the Martha Stewart-esque Judy King in later seasons, matched or were at least inspired by the events of the real-life Piper's prison stay. The book also gave the show more credibility in my eyes; I've seen the show criticized for not giving an accurate portrayal of prison, and my own boyfriend tells me the inmates aren't hardened enough to be realistic, but reading an accurate portrayal of a minimum security prison and seeing that almost all the details that were called into question were actual facts about Piper's stay really reinforced my faith in the interpretation.

More importantly than the comparisons between the book and show are the sentiments about prison life that this memoir expresses. I would have enjoyed it, whether or not I'd watched the show, because of its fascinating details regarding prison life, the diversity of the women encountered, and the open-minded affection with which Piper regarded these women. Despite being fairly well-off, she doesn't see herself as better than any of the other inmates, and she spends a great deal of time in this book exploring the ways that most inmates are locked in a hard-to-break cycle between prison and the real world. She shows that prison doesn't even try to prepare inmates with the skills they need to survive as productive members of society and she addresses issues such as race, poverty, and mental illness that make a person particularly susceptible to this system.

I also liked this book for it's open-minded inclusion of women, not only of different races but also of different categories in the LGBT community. Piper obviously felt attracted to women, which precluded much judgment in regard to lesbians, but I was impressed that she even gave fair time to the trans woman she encountered in the prison and that, despite the fact that most of her anecdotes regarding this particular inmate included very politically incorrect terminology that many inmates and COs had used, Piper herself always used proper pronouns in her narration and seemed to truly respect who this woman was. The only thing this book lacked was a real acknowledgement of bisexuality/pansexuality, which I found somewhat disappointing. Though Piper stated that she had slept with many people, both men and women, in her twenties, she still described herself in her relationship with Larry as an ex-lesbian. This is her decision to make, being that it is her own identity, but I was surprised at the categorization and wondered why the concept of bi/pan people was never addressed.

In short, I enjoyed this book immensely, struggling to put it down. It's great for fans and non-fans of the show alike, and it gives a valuable insight to life as an inmate and the problems therein. ( )
  NovelInsights | Sep 21, 2019 |
This was very different from the tv show in a wonderful way. I feel this was much more realistic than the show.
( )
  audraelizabeth | Aug 28, 2019 |
This is a very revealing memoir of the prison system. Piper Kerman is from a well to do family, and having just graduated from Smith, decides to spice up her life a bit. She gets involved with an older woman, Nora, a lesbian - and they begin a relationship that involves Piper in carrying drug money. Years later, the Feds come for Piper and she is sentenced to prison.
What follows is the story of Piper's year in prison. It was totally not what I expected. I have never seen the TV show of the same name, so I was expecting a horrible tale. However, what came forth was the caring and the camaraderie of the women in the prison. It also shone a spotlight on the overwhelming population of the prison system - incarcerating people for minor, non-violent offenses. I thought one of the best parts of the memoir was the observation that we should be putting money into schools vs. prison. The love of her husband, Larry, as well as the support of her family and her friends, was astonishing. We should all be so lucky to have people care so deeply about us in our time of need.
Well done, and quite a different perspective than what I expected.
#OrangeIsTheNewBlack #PiperKerman ( )
  rmarcin | Aug 2, 2019 |
Piper Kerman writes about her time serving a prison sentence ten years after her post-college-excitement-turned-nightmare of hanging out with bohemian drug smugglers. She provides insight on the women's prison culture, questions the system of incarceration, and shares her life lessons and surprising friendships. Read it in a day!

Note: Piper Kerman is the wife of my editor--though he didn't require me to read her book nor did he tell me to tell everyone that I liked it; I did that on my own. ( )
  alyssajp | Jul 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 226 (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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Book description
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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