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Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison Paperback – March 8, 2011
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“Fascinating . . . The true subject of this unforgettable book is female bonding and the ties that even bars can’t unbind.”—People (four stars)
“I loved this book. It’s a story rich with humor, pathos, and redemption. What I did not expect from this memoir was the affection, compassion, and even reverence that Piper Kerman demonstrates for all the women she encountered while she was locked away in jail. I will never forget it.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love
“This book is impossible to put down because [Kerman] could be you. Or your best friend. Or your daughter.”—Los Angeles Times
“Moving . . . transcends the memoir genre’s usual self-centeredness to explore how human beings can always surprise you.”—USA Today
“It’s a compelling awakening, and a harrowing one—both for the reader and for Kerman.”—Newsweek
About the Author
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The real Piper, whose last name is Kerman and not Chapman, didn't seem as conniving or crazy as the TV show Piper. She didn't take part in a dirty panties operation, didn't do her time with Alex Voss (only a few short weeks when they were testifying in Chicago), and never got starved by the head kitchen worker. As an avid reader, I get it - the book is always different than when Hollywood takes over and makes dramatic effect on it.
The book was very informative - it displayed women bonding in a situation that is less than desirable for most of the human population. While most women, when put together with other women in cramped up places usually proves as challenging and scary, Piper Kerman talked about the positives when it came to serving time together. She included many details that the show leaves out - it was nice to actually get in her head and feel the emotions of doing time.
I'm giving it 4 stars because it took me a little longer to finish than other books. While not a bad book, there were parts where I had a hard time focusing because it felt repetitive and unnecessary. If you were into the TV show, check this out. While there are shades of similarities, the book is extremely different than what Netflix has shared with us.
I highly recommend this book, not just to fans of the corresponding Netflix adaptation of OITNB, but generally to fans of biographies, memoirs, prison tales and rehabilitation / redemption stories. I found OITNB to be a quick, fun read, as I finished the 300-page book within a total duration of 7 hours spread across 3 days. The real-life Piper Kerman sure is an inspiration, and I'd be very much inclined to read more of her works, if she goes on to write any in future. Kudos to her for a brilliantly written book.
Piper Kerman's real-life story chronicling her year in prison is insightful and thought-provoking.
At times the writing impressed me, like this vivid description:
"Miss Sanchez had long Frito-chip fingernails painted Barbie pink."
There are interesting insights into prison life.
"Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the word, a place where the US government not puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient--people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled. Meanwhile, the ghetto in the outside world is a prison as well, and a much more difficult one to escape from. In fact, there is basically a revolving door between our urban and rural ghettos and the formal ghetto of our prison system."
My favorite "character" is the Russian wife of a mobster, Pop. Pop is the head cook, and gives invaluable advice to Piper.
This story makes the reader inevitably wonder how she would handle imprisonment. I resonated with Piper helping an inmate write a paper. I also would try to fit exercise into my daily routine to stay sane. But really, it's hard to imagine how awful imprisonment would be.
The groping from male guards infuriated me:
"Other male COs were brazen, like the short, red-faced young bigmouth who asked me loudly and repeatedly, "Where are the weapons of mass destruction?" while he fondled me and I gritted my teeth.
There was absolutely no payoff for filing a complaint. A female prisoner who alleges sexual misconduct on the part of a guard is invariably locked in the SHU in "protective custody", losing her housing assignment, program actives, work assignment, and a host of other prison privileges, not to mention the comfort of her routine and friends."
I like how prison statistics (like one out of 100 adults are locked up in the US) are told factually without a preachy tone. I'm also glad Piper mentioned feeling remorse for trafficking drugs--the very drugs that may have been used by her fellow inmates as part of their crimes. I can get behind the decriminalization of drugs for personal use, but I disagree with the notion that drug dealers are never violent.
Overall, a good read, and I'm impressed Piper is giving back by teaching writing to prisoners.
Thank goodness. The Piper in the show deserves her karma, and is quite unlikable. Gloria, Tastey, Poussey, Red, and others steal the limelight for me.
In the book, if it's factual, Piper is a much more sympathetic person. She deserved to do time, but her perspective is honest, droll, and realistic.
I'm not sure why the show brought "Alex" front and center with so much drama, when the people in the book are more worthy of our attention.
The real Larry, is also a far better person.
Top international reviews
Firstly it's well written - not one of those rambling all over the place accounts of difficult times by people who don't actually seem to be able to remember what happened. Perhaps we should encourage more writers to get locked up so they can produce such good books.
Secondly, this is absolutely not a 'poor me' pity party; quite the opposite. Kerman goes in to prison understandably scared and worried about how the others will react to a middle class, educated white girl, and she makes some amazingly good friends. That's not to suggest that anybody would WANT to do over a year in an American jail, but she does a great job of seeing the good in people and giving the best of herself to others.
The book is almost totally free of self-pity or blaming other people (though maybe a smidge for the evil ex-GF who got her into the drug trade) and filled with realisations that what she did was wrong, should be punished and had consequences for others.
Some may say "It's not as good as the TV show" but it's more 'real'. TV polishes things to fit a nice story into 40 minutes or so each week and gives every character a compelling back story. This doesn't. It just takes a bunch of people who made some bad mistakes and gives Piper K the chance to observe and learn from her and their experiences
Neither pleading innocence nor revelling in her former criminality, Kerman recounts her offences, the long wait for justice, and her jail time with journalistic frankness. The story she tells is unsensational, although the bases for some of the characters and dramas which unfold in the television series are more than evident. Her struggle is simply to survive, and to build relationships with those inmates who are amenable whilst avoiding those who are not.
She expresses ire at the ineffectiveness of the prison system to rehabilitate offenders; and gives vent to her despair at the "war on drugs", which sees jails full of relatively low-level, non-violent victims of circumstance and limited opportunity. As an educated middle-class women with a meaningful life on the outside, she is painfully aware of her white privilege.
This is a lively, colourful read, especially recommended for those who spout cliches about prison being like a holiday camp - the psychological toll on even someone as centred as Kerman is palpable.
I requested the Kindle sample to begin with just to make sure I enjoyed the writing style but as soon as I finished the sample I swiftly bought the book and carried on reading as I was gripped right from the beginning.
Even though the TV series is BASED on this, that is all it is. If you expect to know all the characters, you are going to be disappointed. They all have different names, and even when names you may recognise are mentioned, this doesn’t mean they will have the same personality and characteristics as those from the show. I could identify a few, Pop being the most like Red and Yoga Janet like Yoga Jones. However, Crazy Eyes is completely different as is Pennsatucky. This made it feel as if you were reading a completely different story to that of Piper Chapman from the series. It was great to be able to differentiate between the two and made the book more enjoyable. You were still able to visualise certain scenarios and scenes, however.
I’m not sure if reading this while our country is in lockdown was the best idea. We are all locked up in our houses with restricted freedom but reading this really made me appreciate all that I do have in comparison to really being locked up in prison. I still have all my home comforts, my TV programmes, my favourite food and of course my husband and cats. All of these things would be absent in prison, so I really have nothing to complain about.
Reading it made me feel quite claustrophobic; however, having all your rights removed and being at the mercy of the CO’s whims is something I can’t even begin to fathom. Even though Piper Kerman’s experience didn’t sound that horrendous compared to how we all think prison could be; it was still a cautionary tale about not breaking the law.
I thought the book was excellently written, it evoked all the emotions that she must have been feeling and I’m delighted I read it to experience the real Piper’s story.
I found the book interesting but mainly because I was constantly trying to compare the book to the series. I am pretty sure that there are better books around that cover the same types of experience.
I normally prefer books to films but not this time.
(For whom I often have little time, gave Orange is the new Black a very fair review) It proved far from disappointing in almost every respect.
Kerman brings this book to full life to the extent that you feel that you could well be literally a onlooker from the top of the wire fences that encase this eclectic mix of life's peoples.
Well written, well done Piper Kerman.
Facility. It's incredibly interesting to hear how the justice system works in America. If you've watched OITNB on Netflix you'll recognise where characters got their inspiration from and how they've take the real life and embellished and grown them for the big screen. Don't expect a like for like story. But what you expect is a frank and interesting, upsetting and humourous journey through Piper's experience with the justice system and some observations about what really doesn't work and isn't fair and what really is a vicious cycle of punishment and reoffending.
Very well written, pacey and thoughtful.
Kerman, however, I found quite unpleasant. Condescending. And very preoccupied with showing the reader how “down wit da cons” she was which I found quite embarrassing.
It was intriguing at times and a good read however I would go out of my way to recommend it.
I haven't seen the television series therefore cannot compare.