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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"Fascinating....The true subject of this unforgettable audiobook is female bonding and the ties that even bars can't unbind." ( People)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,104
  • 4 Stars
    2,648
  • 3 Stars
    1,149
  • 2 Stars
    255
  • 1 Stars
    132

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    3,487
  • 4 Stars
    2,083
  • 3 Stars
    727
  • 2 Stars
    152
  • 1 Stars
    85

Story

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    2,796
  • 4 Stars
    2,257
  • 3 Stars
    1,078
  • 2 Stars
    283
  • 1 Stars
    148
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Lakewood, CO, United States
  • 03-31-14

My favorite book of the year, so far

Admittedly, I was looking for something a little edgier when I first picked it up. After walking in on my wife watching the TV series by the same name and overhearing some discussion of lesbian prison sex, I figured this might be a fun and naughty read. I was wrong and I'm so glad. It had none of that. What it had was an honest, sincere ownership for her past transgressions, an accounting for what brought her to that point, an expression of every emotions she had on her trip into, through and out of the federal prison system, and the people who helped her make it through it all. I haven't enjoyed a book this much since The Art of Racing in the Rain. Everything about this book drips sincerity to me and as a result, I followed along with her highs and lows, her daily routine, and the things that helped her get through the day.

73 of 78 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Taryn
  • Suffern, NY, United States
  • 04-01-14

Orange Obsession for me!

From the first moment listening to this audio I was HOOKED! A fascinating topic told in a totally engaging way by an amazing narrator I could not stop listening. To make matters worse I "binge watched" the Netfix series at the same time. I was on "Orange Overload". Piper Kerman's experience in a minimum security woman's prison is told with honesty and sensitivity. She did not consider herself a victim and was quite open about what she had done and how she came to understand herself, her crime and her life choices.She describes life in prison, from the basics of survival ie: food, showers, clothing, work assignments, guards, etc to the intimate friendships she made. She describes how through rituals, humor and support they helped each other make life bearable and have some meaning in such a difficult environment. She also describes how the sentence affects the families of women in prison,especially those with children and few resources. The book is quite a bit different than the series which certainly deviates from the story to make it Hollywood friendly. I was happy and sad when it ended. I enjoyed living in Piper's world from the comfort of my own home, during my "Orange Obsessed" week but I was glad to get back to my own life, because I literally couldnt stop listening!

45 of 50 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Bella
  • Los Angeles
  • 07-17-15

Boring unless you're a Sociology student

What did you like best about Orange is the New Black? What did you like least?

I find anything about the prison system interesting. I enjoyed hearing about what life is like in a minimum security prison for basically non-violent criminals. It was interesting to hear someone's perspective

What could Piper Kerman have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

She could have been a little more real. I feel like she sugar coated a lot of her experiences, and was a little too fluffy about her friends in prison. Most of her stories were just little stories that never lead to anything very interesting. She spent a lot of time almost... boasting... about most of her experiences. I only got glimses of tough times, and I know that can't be right. Most of her stories had too much sentimentality in them. I got bored.

Have you listened to any of Cassandra Campbell’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No I haven't, but she is a good narrator.

Did Orange is the New Black inspire you to do anything?

Tell people the show is way more interesting than the real story.

Any additional comments?

The TV writers make a much more interesting story about life in prison. I am curious to see how the TV writers came up with such different ideas. I would like to know if they interviewed other inmates and got the real (not sugary, sentimental) versions or if they just made it up as they went along?

I gave this book 3 stars because it was able to hold my attention to the end. However, Piper Kerman is at best a good college writer. Her commentary on the prison system is well said, and I would love to see her on a TED stage or starting up a program to fight mass incarceration in America. I think she would be incredible at that. But, she is not a very good storyteller. She doesn't understand anything about building tension or foreshadowing. I think this would have been better if someone else had written her story, which I suppose is what the TV show is! ;-)

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Sadly Incomplete

Any additional comments?

Piper had "advantages" going into prison - an incredible support system and a relatively short sentence. However, I am haunted by concern for some of her cell mates - good women who helped Piper through her year and also made her a stronger woman. Without being preachy, the author makes a very strong argument for the waste of money and human resources our prison system has become. Prison is neither a deterrent nor a fitting punishment for many of those incarcerated. For their jailers, it has become the substitute for the industrial jobs that have gone overseas. Everyone loses.

82 of 97 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

The Book is NOT Like the TV Show (but I liked it)

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I had heard so much about the TV series but I wanted to "read" the book first. I finished the book, then I watched the first episode of the series. Wow! They are nothing alike! I enjoyed the book a lot, although at times it seemed like a bunch of little stories that just ended, with no connection to each other. Overall though, I still enjoyed it. The connections Piper made and the relationships she formed were very interesting and touching.

The thing I LIKED about the book is that it had a lot of serious social commentary about the American judicial and penal systems. I saw none of that in the TV series. It seemed like they took the basic premise of the book and re-wrote it as a black comedy for TV. If you're looking for comedy you'll probably be disappointed in the book.

I agree with other readers... I was disappointed that it didn't follow up with her life after prison. I was eager to find out if she kept in touch with any of her prison friends. I guess maybe she's saving that for the sequel? Also, the writing wasn't a masterpiece but the subject matter kept my interest and I was always anxious to hear the next chapter.

What does Cassandra Campbell bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I liked Cassandra's dramatization of the different characters in the book.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The part where the guard took Piper to the lake was memorable.

27 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Humorous, Intelligent, and Introspective

What did you love best about Orange Is the New Black?

Orange Is the New Black is an eye opening account of the American prison system. The first person point of view gives the reader an intimate and intelligent look at the institution.

What did you like best about this story?

Piper never looses her wry sense of humor. There are laugh out loud moments of interactions with the other inmates. She turns a bad situation into introspective personal revelation. In the end she gains a touching sense of humanity.

What does Cassandra Campbell bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I can absolutely imagine Piper Kerman sounding exactly like Ms. Cambell. Her affectations of characters and attitudes are spot on.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes, and I almost did.

Any additional comments?

Piper Kerman's memoir brings to light important issues about the American judicial system and the disturbing lack of access to successful rehabilitation for inmates.

25 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Dubi
  • New York, NY
  • 03-14-18

Truth Is Often Not At All Stranger Than Fiction

Impossible to review this book without comparing it to the TV series. Even if you haven't seen the show, you'll listen to the book, then likely want to watch it. If you're lucky enough to fall into that category, I expect you to like the book then love the series. If you've seen the show, the book will either reaffirm why you like it, or it could prove to be a disappointment.

You see, contrary to the famous aphorism that truth is often stranger than fiction, the TV series, fictionalized and dramatized, is far stranger -- more dramatic, more comedic, more riveting -- than Piper Kerman's memoir of the year she spent in a minimum security women's prison for a ten-year-old drug charge.

Piper's account is straightforward -- a detailed description of her crime, her journey through the legal system, and her (relatively) short stay in prison, very much a day to day look at life in prison. Mixed into that are observations -- what she has learned about herself, what she has learned about the American prison system, justice system, the war on drugs, and the consequences of economic inequality. Nothing groundbreaking, though.

What's missing is drama. Virtually every character and event in the book finds its way into the series, but is extended, dramatized, adding drama and humor. The drama, dialogue, and character development convey the themes rather than Piper's detached observations. Flashbacks flesh out the back stories of the characters rather than Piper's single-line or single-paragraph (often incomplete) descriptions of her fellow inmates and the prison staff.

I'm happy to have listened to the book, I liked it because of the familiar characters and themes, I loved the narration even though its light tone betrays the lack of drama. But the TV series is so much more powerful, has so much more depth, yet still authentic. The familiar TV format of focusing on the story arc of a single character in one individual episode within the season-long arc of broader story lines works exceptionally well with this material, given a prison full of women. You will not find that in the book. But it's worth reading all the same.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Don't watch the show first

What disappointed you about Orange is the New Black?

It wasn't as interesting as the show. It didn't keep my interest.

Would you be willing to try another book from Piper Kerman? Why or why not?

Nah.

Would you be willing to try another one of Cassandra Campbell’s performances?

No. Although, she sounded like I'd imagine Piper to sound. Great job.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Frustration. The true story behind Orange is the New Black is definitely not as interesting as the made-up one. Reality.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Jena
  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA, United States
  • 06-07-15

Trite and without any meaning

This was the worst book I have listened to in a long time. There is so much white guilt and bragging about her background and feeling sorry for her cell mates that I could barely focus on the story. She comes from a very privileged background and makes that very clear to the point where none of the other characters are given any voice at all. Horrible. I can't believe this story got popular.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Don't waste your time

Boring and dumb
Didn't care about this woman. She is annoying and nothing happens. She did -yoga. Big deal. Yuck.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful