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450 of 520 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different from the Netflix mini-series....
I really liked this book. It is written like a series of sequential articles rather than a narrative with true character development, but it still provides interesting insights into the rhythm of institutional prison life, with its mind-numbing bureaucracy and its mash-up of humanity trying to adapt or deal with incarceration. It is told from Kerman's pov, and thus her...
Published 14 months ago by Learning All The Time

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650 of 718 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but ultimately disappointing
I got interested in reading Orange is the New Black after reading an excerpt in the New York Times, and reading an article from Piper's fiance Larry in the Times as well. I just finished it, and I found it really interesting - the details she provides on life in prison, the rituals, the jobs, the treatment of prisoners, is really fascinating and a view on a minimum...
Published on June 23, 2010 by Susan Ferziger


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650 of 718 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but ultimately disappointing, June 23, 2010
I got interested in reading Orange is the New Black after reading an excerpt in the New York Times, and reading an article from Piper's fiance Larry in the Times as well. I just finished it, and I found it really interesting - the details she provides on life in prison, the rituals, the jobs, the treatment of prisoners, is really fascinating and a view on a minimum security prison I'd never seen before. But I was often frustrated with Kerman's lack of details - I had no sense of how it was that she was free to just go do yoga or run around the track whenever she wanted, or what kind of hours she worked at her electric and construction jobs. I was really moved by the descriptions of the other women in prison and of the friendships she formed, but I also had trouble keeping the women straight, especially when she'd bring up a name that she hadn't mentioned in several chapters, and I would try to remember who Delicious or Pom-Pom or Toni was.

I did find her to be a bit smug, going out of her way to explain that while most prisoners kept to their ethnic "tribes," she was friends with everyone, other prisoners came to her for help with their homework or legal work, she lent out all of her books and gave away all of her possessions, etc. While I liked her voice, I felt she went overboard in trying to portray herself as non-racist, and as someone who didn't feel above everyone she was incarcerated with.

Mostly though, I was disappointed in the ending. For the last 100 pages, I was looking forward to the end, to what happens when Piper gets home. She ruminates a lot on the balance between getting used to prison rituals but not getting so comfortable that you forget the outside world, so I wanted to know how she found the adjustment to home, whether there was any tension with Larry. Most of all, after she credits the women at Danbury for their friendship and kindness, I wondered if she simply left without turning back or if she kept in touch with anyone, wrote letters, saw anyone who got out on the outside (like Pop)? I felt robbed of one last chapter, which I felt the book was leading up to.

All in all, this was enjoyable, but not something I'll enthusiastically recommend.
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450 of 520 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very different from the Netflix mini-series...., July 13, 2013
I really liked this book. It is written like a series of sequential articles rather than a narrative with true character development, but it still provides interesting insights into the rhythm of institutional prison life, with its mind-numbing bureaucracy and its mash-up of humanity trying to adapt or deal with incarceration. It is told from Kerman's pov, and thus her reactions to life in prison make up the bulk of the book, but she still provides a lot of food for thought about our prisons and the people who live in them.

I came to the book through the Netflix mini-series, and the only reason I watched that was because of Kate Mulgrew who is "Red", but I found myself completely drawn in by the series story line and the lives of the characters in the movie, in spite of the fact the show was much, MUCH more shockingly graphic than anything I typically enjoy (used tampon sandwich for starters). After the mind-blowing ending of the first season of the mini-series, I had to read the book to see whether something like that incident really happened. The answer is thankfully no. There are no deaths in this book, no overt sex, no pregnancy drama, no drug-running drama, no brutal attacks, and so on.

It is difficult for many people to have compassion for people who are in prison or to care about their living conditions since they "made their bed", but I think books that remind us of our common humanity with "others" are important and worth reading, and so I added a star to the book's rating.

Recommended. And if you are put off by the graphic nature of the mini-series, this book is a "safe" read. If you are hoping to read graphic descriptions of events portrayed in the mini-series, you will be disappointed.
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544 of 669 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oh, Piper....., July 29, 2013
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This review is from: Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison (Kindle Edition)
Didn't everyone really go to high school with Piper Kerman? She is just the stereotypical, little, mean-girl, blonde, who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She makes an absolutely abysmal life choice, that she shrugs off as happening due to her being bored and adventurous, even though life has given her every advantage, and after 11 years finds herself dropped into the middle of the cesspool that is the American prison system. Piper weathers this storm by cleverly befriending the ethnically diverse group of unfortunate inmates that she discovers are as heartbreakingly vulnerable to being befriended by the homecoming queen with the acid tongue and entitled attitude as the poor homely and uncool girls in any high school in the country would be.

Piper is a shameless narcissist. While she is receiving more visitors, mail and commissary money than she knows what to do with from her uber supportive and financially well-off family and friends and benefitting from the best legal defense money can buy, she regales the reader with tales of the poor, UGLY, uneducated, inmates that occupy Danbury Federal Prison in Connecticut. These poor woman have suffered from lack of decent legal representation and Lord knows what other horrors in their lives and Piper congratulates herself ad nauseam for being kind to them...which in reality, is really all that she can do to survive in her new environment.

I have had this on my TBR list for a long time and decided to finally read it when I heard about the series available on Netflix. I found myself alternating between being disgusted at the vapid Kerman and being just bored and disinterested in the narrative. If you want to read something really compelling about being a woman dealing with being incarcerated, I recommend Wally Lamb's "Couldn't Keep it to Myself". It is a wonderful compilation of stories written by students that he taught in a creative writing class that he volunteered to teach in a women's prison in New York. It is a fabulous book, about these women's lives and how they coped with their inmate experiences, told in their own fascinating words. "Orange is the New Black" is about Piper Kerman...and she is not all that compelling.
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56 of 72 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars At Times Introspective About Prison, But Mostly Filled With Complaints, May 29, 2010
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Anyone who knows anything about prisons and the sentencing for drug offenses will know very early on that the author got an extremely easy sentence and ended up serving it at an extremely easy facility. Yet throughout the book she complains about any number of things. Some of the complaints are valid, however the majority are silly and show that she has NO idea what it is like to serve time in a real prison.

I have spent a fair amount of time in both men's and women's prisons (not as a guest or guard, but as a consultant on fire protection safety) and have seen the conditions that are present in these facilities. While Danbury is no pleasure palace, it is gorgeous next to where she could have wound up. And, from her attitude and behavior, she would have done very hard time at any normal facility.

Throughout the book she complains about the boredom, and how time drags, yet she has a constant stream of mail and visitors, which is quite abnormal for a prisoner in custody. She had so many books sent in that she could have opened a branch library. That alone should have made the time much easier to handle.

While she does have moments of introspection about her crime and the crimes that locked up her fellow inmates, she seems to fail to recognize that she broke the law, got caught, and paid for it by going to prison, She is just lucky she didn't wind up in a medium security facility...I doubt she would have lasted a month. The book does have the benefit of exposing some problems in the system and opening a dialogue on how to change prisons and sentencing in the US, it does not begin to address why women return and how that can be prevented. Maybe because her friends "created" a job for her upon her release, so she didn't go through the usual hassles most women do.

If you are looking for realistic information on prisons and life behind bars there are much better books available. Buy one of those to learn about the real conditions in prison.
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385 of 509 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A painful read!, June 27, 2011
This shallow "memoir" is an absolutely painful read. After reading the beautifully written "Fish" by TJ Parsell I was intrigued. What I got, however, was a ridiculous self indulgence by Kerman, who takes EVERY opportunity to remind the reader that she is educated, white and good looking (?!).... (you never once get to forget she graduated from Smith). Nearing the middle of the book it became simply laughable how she related constant examples of how popular she was and how "hip" she was with different ethnicities. Equally annoying, however was her references to how "different" she was then the typical prisoner. Some of her biggest struggles involved juggling all of her friends and family who wanted to come and visit her, getting two subscriptions to the same magazine etc. Lacking in depth, insight and wisdom this should have stayed in her personal journal.
I would highly highly recommend "Fish" by TJ Parsell in comparison this is just a disgrace.
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227 of 300 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Did you know the author is blond and went to Smith??, January 27, 2012
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DP (Midlothain, Virginia) - See all my reviews
This book was given to me by a friend in my book club. When asked how she liked it she said, "So, so". Now I know why. I hoped I would find a book rich in detail and a real human story. All I found was a superficial story; now I am ABSOLUTELY SURE the author went to Smith, has long blond hair, has a supportive fiancé, tons of friends who line up to visit her in prison, ...and did I say she went to Smith??? This is a self serving story, filled with personal accolades and no real in-depth depiction of what millions of women endure. I also know that everyone in prison LOVED her (did her Smith education show somehow??) and that the rules she had to follow were an annoyance to her..tsk, tsk, tsk..the food was BAD. This book is not worth reading and is actually irritating, especially if you know women of color with no means who have nothing and who are incarcerated. Here's to the author who has now made $$ on this self indulgent book ..now she can describe herself as an ex-con, go on the rubber chicken circuit and talk about her "ordeal"...BTW, did you know she went to Smith, has long blond hair, is loved by all ??...etc, etc.
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179 of 237 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Even though you are White, you still went to prison, May 28, 2010
By 
Ink (Madrid, Spain) - See all my reviews
I really wanted to like this book. When I read the jacket cover it seemed like it would bring some insight to prison life, delve deeper into the racial disparaties of the penal system...instead I found it to be Kerman's reminder to the world that while she did go to prison, she was still pretty, educated and White, and the most awesome person in there. I found her constant tales of how cool she was among the minorities to be insulting and annoying. She came off as smug, rather than thankful regarding her privilgaed situation. I rolled my eyes so many times at her stories of how down she was with the Hispanics (She called them Latinas at first) and Blacks, and she name dropped Daddy Yankee and Jay Z just to show how hip she was. I am sure if she ran into a Hispanic or Black she would instantly try to explain how she spent time in prison and knew their people. She constantly reminded the reader how many people thought she was hot, which from the picture on the inside jacket shows otherwise. At one scene she explained that she was picking out spinach from a spinach and iceberg lettuce mix, and almost started a fight after she explained "I don't eat iceberg." Girl, you in prison!! Not exactly time to be picky- i am surprised no one shanked her... Kerman thinks she is still too cool for school...despite being white and having gone to Smith, you still made stupid decisions and ended up in prison. If you want insight to prison life, don't bother. All you get here is some White girl's account of being the coolest, smarted, hippest chick in behind bars.
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75 of 98 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Get over yourself....not sure Piper learned anything from prison, October 20, 2010
My bookclub selected this book to read and all 10 of us were extremely disappointed. The book was filled with nonsensical stories of Piper Kerman's prison time. We tried to like her, but she made it very difficult by constantly letting us know that she was better than anyone in prison. "I had a fantastic private attorney and a country club suit to go with my blond bob." There were countless references to Smith College and her obvious intellectual superiority. If her family and friends were so perfect as she portrays them in the book, then how did she ever end up in the drug world to begin with? It would have been interesting to learn about her life after prison. Was it difficult to get a job with a prison record and did Larry ever resent her for turning his life upside down?
Sadly, I paid full price for this book. It would have been nice if Piper donated a portion of the proceeds from this book to an education program at the Danbury Prison or books for the prisoners to read. I was hoping she would have learned how fortunate she is in life and wanted to give back to those less fortunate, but that is not the case.
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164 of 217 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-serving, June 12, 2012
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Not everyone who goes to prison should write a book about it. Piper Kerman lacks the sensitivity and insight that good writers possess. Instead of giving her readers a genuinely authentic experience of being locked up, we hear about how she is such a great person. It was as if she had something to prove, such as, "yes, I went to prison, but I am actually quite fabulous, I'm attractive, I have a great boyfriend, wonderful interesting friends and family who think I'm wonderful and even though I'm so amazing, it never occurred to me to judge the pathetic women I'm locked up with. We're all the same, except I'm better." I was not impressed and at times I was a little nauseated. If you're curious, you can go to her website and watch videos of her interviews and you'll see what I mean. Also, she got a year for a very serious crime. Had she not been white, had family that paid for a pricey lawyer, she would have gotten a much lengthier sentence. No, there is no justice in this world.
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94 of 124 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Eh., November 28, 2011
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This review is from: Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison (Kindle Edition)
The subject matter itself was interesting, and the book could have been compelling if the author was less annoying.

By about halfway through this book I was so exasperated by how arrogant and self-congratulatory the author was I almost put the book down, something I never, ever do. Piper Kerman goes out of her way to point out time and time again that she's Miss Congeniality of minimum-security federal prison. She gets along with everyone, she has street smarts, and she's the best worker in the whole prison. She uses her time wisely to help others and run and yoga herself into a tight new body. Everyone loves Piper, apparently. The entire book seems to revolve around Piper's perception of herself as she functioned in the prison rather than the actual running of the prison itself.

Further, the hardships of prison life felt really glossed over and only minimally addressed. It read more like an account of living in a college dorm than being in prison. Though Piper Kerman paid lip service to various social issues and the like, she really did them no justice and instead chose to focus on how great Team Piper, Larry, and all her friends in prison were. Honestly, if that's how prison is, sign me up for a little while. I could use the break.

In the end, the book suffers because the author is a rich white woman for whom a short sentence in a minimum-security prison really didn't demand all that much in terms of self-reflection. She got to go home to a brand-new house, a fiance, a family who loved her, friends, and a brand new job. Like others have said, she didn't really ever feel bad for her criminal activity, but instead spent more time berating the woman she thought turned her in. I also noticed that she didn't acknowledge her friends from prison in the acknowledgements, and, like a college girl who goes slumming, has probably done nothing since to help her prison "friends."
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