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.
©2010 Piper Kerman (P)2012 Tantor
"Fascinating....The true subject of this unforgettable audiobook is female bonding and the ties that even bars can't unbind." (People)
Like everyone else with a Netflix subscription, I've been drawn into the hit series Orange is the New Black, loosely based on this memoir. (More about that below.)
For those few who don't know the story already, Piper Kerman was a typical snotty upper class white girl who hooked up with an older woman right out of college while still in her "temporary lesbian" phase, and spent a few years traveling the world carrying drugs for her lover and her boss. Oh, how exciting and edgy!
Then she broke off relations, got out of the life, moved back to New York, got engaged to a nice boy, and forget all about her youthful misadventures, until ten years later her former boss's drug operation got rolled up by the feds and Piper Kerman's name was dropped. She was charged and took the plea deal - 15 months in minimum security.
In her memoir, Kerman comes off as self-aware, but with the sort of self-awareness that is a bit of a forced effort. She admits her wrongdoing, she expresses regret and guilt for all the pain she put her friends and family through, and later, for contributing to the drug-induced misery she sees around her in her fellow inmates, and very often she talks about how privileged she is compared to the mostly poor, non-white women in prison with her. She is aware that the support network she has on the outside, the reliable fiance, the nice white collar job (!) she's going to be given by a friend as soon as she gets out, is far more than most her fellow inmates have. So she spends a lot of time railing about how unfair this is, how few resources prisons have, how many ex-convicts are just dumped on the streets with $15 and a "Stay out of trouble!" and no home or prospects for a job. And how dehumanizing prison is.
All the way through, though, Kerman sounded a bit like someone saying all the right things thanks to a diligent editor.
I'm not saying Kerman's expressed feelings are insincere or that she is being wholly disingenuous, but it seems a little convenient that she experiences this moral awakening ten years later, when her past catches up to her. Maybe I am just being judgmental, but I wonder how she was perceived by her cellmates at the time. I don't know if they ever got interviewed. Was the wealthy white girl really as humble and contrite as she makes herself out to be, right from the start?
As prison memoirs go, Orange is the New Black is interesting but decidedly less dramatic than the TV show. If you have seen the show, the first season is very loosely based on the book. There is a "Pensatucky," and a "Porn-stache", and a "Boo," and a grizzled Russian ex-wife of a mob boss, and most of the other characters we know from the show. But of course they are not much like their dramatic personas, and likewise a few incidents in the book are turned into much more dramatic episodes for Netflix.
In the real world, Kerman served thirteen months (time off for good behavior), got out, married her boyfriend, got a nice WASPy job working for nonprofits, and published her memoir. Following that plot would make it hard to continue the adventures of Piper Kerman in prison for three more seasons, so naturally, everything from Season Two on is pure fiction.
Kerman's story is interesting but despite her attempts at self-awareness and social consciousness, I think it would have been a more compelling story from one of her secondary characters. Still, fans of the show will enjoy the book, and even non-fans will probably find it worth listening to.
Informative, entertaining, interesting
Piper discussed the good parts and the bad parts of her prison experience. It wasn't a one sided story. In addition she used her position to discuss the inequality of women incarcerated.
I don't think I have listened to Cassandra Campbell before.
I did laugh at some parts. Since I am a "Orange is a New Black" show junkie, I was able to see some of the characters from the show. Most of the show characters are a mixture of various of the book characters and some of the show characters have major story lines in the show, but in the book they are minor characters. It was still interesting to be able to compare the characters version from the show to the book.
If you are expecting this to be like the show, it is not. This is the real experience of Piper Kerman during her time in federal prison. It is an excellent story and thought provoking story. I'm glad I took the time to listen to it.
If you are expecting to find Alex, Piper Chapman, Tastyee, Poussey, and many more in here well you will find them but under different names which I found confusing since I've seen all the seasons currently. For example Vanessa is Sophia, and Alex is Nora. Well overall it's a great book but for one who is looking for the same characters you will have to reference an online guide. Overall great story and would recommend it.
I didn't read the print version, but I enjoyed the audio version particularly because of the narrator's voices for the different characters.
The most compelling aspect of this narrative was overall impact that a year in prison had on her and how the other women impacted her too.
I loved Natalie and Pop best.
No extreme reactions, but still very enjoyable.
Great book, especially if you have watched the show. You can see where the story and character inspirations draw from in this book.
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Interesting, Relatable (I know it is not an actual word), and Warmhearted.
I guess I messed myself up watching the show and expecting it to be the same. Nonetheless, the ending was definitely still beautiful. I really loved it and it was literally the perfect ending to this eclectic novel.
Oh my goodness, yes. Her voice is amazing and forgetting about actress Taylor Schilling who plays Piper on the show, Cassandra's voice is exactly what I pictured Piper's voice sounding like. Plus, she really has a way of bringing life to a text.
Orange is the New Black: Mistakes and Responsibilities
Okay it's not great but it's the best I could come up with. Honestly, I feel it is just fine how it is.
Nope. It was amazing.
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