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Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison Paperback – March 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 327 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385523394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385523394
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Relying on the kindness of strangers during her year's stint at the minimum security correctional facility in Danbury, Conn., Kerman, now a nonprofit communications executive, found that federal prison wasn't all that bad. In fact, she made good friends doing her time among the other women, many street-hardened drug users with little education and facing much longer sentences than Kerman's original 15 months. Convicted of drug smuggling and money laundering in 2003 for a scheme she got tangled up in 10 years earlier when she had just graduated from Smith College, Kerman, at 34, was a self-surrender at the prison: quickly she had to learn the endless rules, like frequent humiliating strip searches and head counts; navigate relationships with the other campers and unnerving guards; and concoct ways to fill the endless days by working as an electrician and running on the track. She was not a typical prisoner, as she was white, blue-eyed, and blonde (nicknamed the All-American Girl), well educated, and the lucky recipient of literature daily from her fiancé, Larry, and family and friends. Kerman's account radiates warmly from her skillful depiction of the personalities she befriended in prison, such as the Russian gangster's wife who ruled the kitchen; Pop, the Spanish mami; lovelorn lesbians like Crazy Eyes; and the aged pacifist, Sister Platte. Kerman's ordeal indeed proved life altering. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Just graduated from Smith College, Kerman made the mistake of getting involved with the wrong woman and agreeing to deliver a large cash payment for an international drug ring. Years later, the consequences catch up with her in the form of an indictment on conspiracy drug-smuggling and money-laundering charges. Kerman pleads guilty and is sentenced to 15 months in a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut. Entering prison in 2004—more than 10 years after her crime—Kerman finds herself submerged in the unique and sometimes overwhelming culture of prison, where kindness can come in the form of sharing toiletries, and an insult in the cafeteria can lead to an enduring enmity. Kerman quickly learns the rules—asking about the length of one’s prison stay is expected, but never ask about the crime that led to it—and carves a niche for herself even as she witnesses the way the prison system fails those who are condemned to it, many of them nonviolent drug offenders. An absorbing, meditative look at life behind bars. --Kristine Huntley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Great insight on women's Federal prison system.
carol lee ward
I really liked the writing and I like that you never know what's going to happen.
Teresa
The characters were not very well developed and the plot was pretty dull.
Karen Taggesell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

645 of 712 people found the following review helpful By Susan Ferziger on June 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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448 of 517 people found the following review helpful By Learning All The Time on July 13, 2013
Format: Paperback
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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540 of 661 people found the following review helpful By Spindrift VINE VOICE on July 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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.
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